For decades, conventional wisdom told us that you needed to go to college if you wanted to have a professional career and make a high salary. If you wanted to be the boss, college was a must. Any money spent on a college degree would be recouped by the earning power gained from that degree.
Today, things are different. High school graduates are faced with the dilemma of having no money to pay for college because their parents were unable to save. Part time jobs and seasonal employment, which used to help college students pay their tuition bills, are now hard to come by with the unemployed workforce vying for positions that used to be reserved for teenagers and college students.
What are college students to do? Rather than forgo an education, students take out student loans. But at what cost? How much student loan debt will these students be saddled with upon graduation?
Let’s use a medical student as an example. A medical student needs a four year degree just to get into medical school, and will then be required to complete four years of medical school for a total of eight years. Here is a typical breakdown of the financial burden incurred by a medical student attending a private university:
Undergraduate school: Four years at an average tuition rate of $32,000 per year = $128,000
Medical school: Four years at an average tuition rate of $45,000 per year = $180,000
Total Bill: $308,000
Keep in mind that these are just the averages for tuition and do not include fees and housing. Typically, medical students will be assessed fees for their labs, using computers and other on-campus technology, health services, and the library. Grants may cover a portion of the tuition and fees, but medical students on average graduate with student loan debt of nearly $200,000.
Even if the student decides to stop at a 4-year degree and try to find a job based just on that education, they will be graduating with financial burden of $128,000 if no other financial aid options were available to them and they decided to pursue a degree at a private university. Regardless of the subject, a 4-year degree at a private university will run you approximately the same amount, meaning college will cause a debt burden that will be hard to remedy in a sputtering economy.
So, what’s a graduating high school student to do? It may be wise to consider the cost of a college before sending in the deposit to hold your spot at the school. Grants are available, but are limited and usually based on income, including parental income. Graduating with debt may seem like no big deal due to the perceived marketability of a degree, but it’s best to weigh the pros and cons before signing up for debt.