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Do You Need a College Education that Costs as Much as a Home?

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CollegeMany high school advisers and parents encourage high school students to go to the best college they can get into. For many, that means striving for Ivy League schools, even though the competition is fierce to get into those schools.

A recent report on CNN Money found that those top schools now cost more than $50,000 for room and board for one year. Planning to go to Darthmouth? That will set you or your child back nearly $58,000 a year, or $232,000 for a four year education, not factoring in yearly tuition increases. How is that for sticker shock? To put it in perspective, according to the U.S. Census, the median home price in the United States in 2010 was $221,000. A Dartmouth education will cost you as much as a home.

Is it worth it?

If this type of education isn’t in your financial future, all is not lost. There are still things your children can do to get ahead and have a good career with a commanding salary. Consider these suggestions:

1. Choose your major carefully. Too many graduates find themselves in low paying jobs because they study what they love rather than what will make them money. I am not saying that you should only focus on the bottom line because passion is important, too. However, can you mix your passion with a practical major? If you want to teach, could you get a nursing degree and teach nurses? If you want to be a writer, can you study science or engineering so you can be a scientific or technical writer?

2. Get the most from the college you do attend. If you strive to get into the best school you can but can’t afford to go there, are there other ways you can set yourself up for success at the college you do attend? Can you join the honors program at the college you do attend? Can you take honors classes? These things will help set you apart from others in the school.

3. Make connections. Part of what makes an Ivy League education so valuable is that the graduates look out for one another. They may choose to hire a fellow graduate for a project rather than someone who graduated from another school. You can recreate this valuable network by making your own connections at the school you do attend. My friend joined a business fraternity at college, and the connections she made there have helped her secure several jobs. She has also referred her friends for jobs.

4. Use LinkedIn to expand your connections. Use LinkedIn to keep in touch with your college friends and acquaintances. The larger you can make your network, the more your network can help you, and you can help them.

While many of us might want the prestige that comes with an Ivy League education, the cost may make attending such a college impossible. However, you can still have a successful career by making an effort to stand out from the rest and network at the college you can afford.

(Photo: pagedooley)

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7 Responses to “Do You Need a College Education that Costs as Much as a Home?”

  1. There are three things I have discovered to get the most out of your college education.
    #1 pick a major that will allow you to get a job.
    #2 If possible attend a community college to finish up all of your gen eds at a fraction of the cost
    #3 try to live at home. The “college experience” is mostly drinking and has very little to do with actual academia.

  2. Walt says:

    Mellisa, for my own opinion college degree is worth it. By getting, a college education related to profession that offered a higher salary, you have a chance to earn higher income compared to others. Though you spend more money during the 4 years in the university, you can pay off that by your earning potential.

    While studying or while at your job, you can extend your network through social media or from your friends or school organization. One thing more, to be successful or to get rich will not depend the name of your school, but how you made an action at every opportunity coming to you.

    • Scott says:

      Your last point depends on your definition of successful… many CEO jobs are not available to people without the right pedigree, i.e. degree from a top-notch business school. Might not be fair, but that’s real life.

  3. Scott says:

    So I literally just last night volunteered at a college fair for my alma mater for the first time in four years (three years off due to work conflicts), and wow, what a difference four years has made. Four years ago, nearly everyone’s first question was “what financial aid do you offer?”. This year, I didn’t get asked that question even once. Four years ago, there was a lot of interest in ROTC, both because we’re in an area with lots of military and because it helps pay for college. This year, no one asked about it. Four years ago, students were interested in a wide variety of academic programs and many focused on the STEM programs where jobs are somewhat hard to fill. This year, I talked to two people interested in aerospace, one in architecture, four or five in theatre, and everyone else wanted to do pre-med, athletic training, nursing, or some other medical program. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s definitely interesting.

  4. freeby50 says:

    “A recent report on CNN Money found that those top schools now cost more than $50,000 for room and board for one year.”

    Its not just for room and board. The article says:

    “For the 2012-13 academic year, 151 colleges charged annual tuition, fees, room and board totaling more than $50,000″

  5. DawgyD says:

    College is a good institution for the community. It’s a group of people who have a common interest (academics or partying).

    The success of the individual depends on the individual mostly. A good school experience can foster and challenge a gifted student. A poor experience could distract.

    Visit a college before you attend. Align.

  6. Megan says:

    I have big problems with College. Huge.

    For some careers, it’s necessary of course – when you need advanced training to not kill anyone, let bridges collapse or unleash a virus upon the world – but for the most part, a degree is at best, only going to put you at par with the rest of the applicant pool.

    I think there are better, more effective, less cripplingly expensive ways to prove you’re talented, to learn skills and to gain experience.

    This becomes even more true when students go right from high school into college having been told from the cradle that it’s the only way to have a decent life, and they must follow their passion AND choose something practical – and if their initial assumptions about what they want to do with the rest of their lives turn out to be wrong (wait, 18 year olds don’t make mistakes, do they?) they’re out, as you mention, the cost of a home. That they’re still on the hook for. Enter ten or more years of indentured servitude.

    Those who have an aptitude for and interest in STEM are well served with a diploma, as are those whose passion is academia – but everyone else? Start a blog, start a business, buy training from experts, maybe do some online training, talk your way into a mail-room job, or at least take a few trial courses on Coursera, or even just take a few years to figure things and try different types of work before committing to a degree program.


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