I once dated a girl that chose to go to a private college that cost over 3 times what it cost to go to a public institution. My understanding is that she ended up getting a social services degree from this college. Was this the best financial decision? Not from my point of view. She spent over, by my estimation, $80000 to get a degree in social services. There aren’t a ton of social service jobs that pay a really high salary. Most people, like her, choose to go in to social services because they feel a calling, or a passion for helping others. The pay gets them by, but is probably secondary to their job having purpose.
While I certainly don’t fault her for going in to a social service field, I do question the logic of going to one of the most expensive private schools in the state to get her degree. In her case, it probably would have been most advantageous to attend a public university to significantly save on the cost.
If only it was as easy as simply choosing a school, and getting a degree. The reality is that, like me, you don’t always know what you want to get your degree in until you’ve been there awhile. In light of this, I have a few ideas on how to get the most out of the cost of a college degree.
Attend a junior college for the first two years. During these two years, you can take the basic courses that are required before you move in to the upper level courses that are tied to your specific degree. Some states will actually guarantee you a spot in a 4 year college after completing an associate degree in the junior college.
Only attend a private institution that is significantly more expensive if you are sure of your degree area and that school offers a highly rated degree in that area.
Take accredited courses in high school (many schools offer head start programs) that will speed up your degree in college. For every quarter’s worth of classes you can get done while still in high school, you can save thousands.
Now I’m sure that this post will probably earn me some hate mail. I’m trying to approach this from a “return on investment” point of view. Obviously it is extremely challenging to measure how long it will take to recoup your investment in college if you don’t even know what your income level will be once you graduate. Certainly the very prestigous schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the like might get you a higher starting salary, but I would be willing to bet that the starting salaries for graduates of more obscure private colleges probably aren’t significantly higher than reputable state schools. This being the case, from a financial point of view, it would probably be less risky and a more positive business case to attend a public university.
Think I’m crazy? Am I missing something here?
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