The #1 most crucial activity that high school students must do is calculate how much it will cost to attend college. There are many factors to consider, and as recent headlines have reported, the cost of college continues to go up-up-UP!
Unless you have a trust fund, wealthy parents (and I mean the kind of wealth that you don’t need to show with flashy clothes and fancy cars), you are probably going to need to borrow some money for college. Before you visit your first Campus, you owe it to yourself to look at the hard facts about what it will cost you to pay back those student loans once you leave school.
Notice I did not say “graduate“. While everyone goes into college with the intention of graduating, not everyone does. A 2012 study by ACT reported that only 36.6% of students in public colleges and universities (four-year) completed their degree within five years.
So, if you beat these odds, stay in school and complete your degree, add an extra year of tuition (and potentially – borrowing) to your calculations. Even more important, if you borrow money to pay tuition, fees and other costs but leave college without your degree, within six months you will be required to begin paying your loans back and guess what?
Student loan lenders don’t care if you’re still working the fast-food drive thru: they want their money and you will begin to pay it back at that 6-month mark,…or else.
You need to understand that the student loan lenders ALSO do not care if you chose to spend $100,000 on college but earned a degree where you are only going to make $28,000 a year. Payments on $100,000 in student loans are more than $1,000 a month. At a salary of $28,000 a year, your monthly take-home will be something close to $1,650 a month. Can you live on $650 a month?
It’s wonderful to dream about becoming a Marine Biologist, or a Zookeeper, or an Astronaut,…BUT – if at the end of your college years you have borrowed money to finance your dreams without tying them to reality; those dreams quickly become a nightmare that never goes away until those loans are paid off,…in full. You cannot even escape student loans by declaring bankruptcy, except in extreme and extraordinary (rare) cases. Going into default on your federal student loans (i.e. not paying them as scheduled) not only ruins your credit, making it impossible to buy a car, or a house or even get a store credit card, but it can lock you out of federal, state and even many local government jobs.
Today, more than ever, it is CRITICAL for high school students to THINK before they DRINK the college Kool-Aid.
For additional information on the trillion-dollar student loan debt crisis:
- Project on Student Debt
- Pay Off Your Student Loans & Go to College for Free
- The Great American College Tuition Rip-Off
- Student Loan Straitjacket (The WSJ)
If you’re already done with college but not thinking you picked such a great major,… check out my first book, Finding Your Way: uncover your path to a better job. You spend most of your waking hours at work – if “work” isn’t working for you, it’s time to find something that will.