17 February 2015
Why, How and Where You Should Go to College


According to a recent study1 published by The Institute for College Access and Success, graduates are leaving institutions of higher learning with higher debt loads to pay off.

  • Almost half of colleges that responded indicated that nine out of 10 graduates left campus with a student loan obligation.
  • College graduates enter the workforce with debt loads as high as $71,000.
  • The average student debt, reported by 129 surveyed colleges, is $35,000.



A college education costs a lot of money, and in some cases, a master’s degree is required, adding even more debt load to a new member of the work force.

However, there are things you can do to lower the debt you take along with your diploma, and get faster traction in the workplace.

It Doesn’t Matter Where You Go, But You Do Have to Go

The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that, when adjusted for individual student characteristics, attending a high-priced school fails to produce more income.2

However, the same report indicates that college graduates, over their careers, tend to earn more than workers who attended college but never graduated, or simply got a high school diploma. So, some form of post-secondary education should deliver financial benefits. However, whether you attend a high-priced Ivy League university, or the local branch of your state’s university system, once you’re in the workforce, employers are unlikely to go back to look at your college degree. Instead, they look at the results you deliver.

You Also Have To Do Well

Time magazine reports that, “Where you go to college is of almost no importance. Whether your degree is from UCLA or from less prestigious Sonoma State matters far less than your academic performance and the skills you can show employers.”3

That’s what employers look for – skills, whether it’s HVAC, computer networking or systems analysis – bring the skills and a good college history and you have a good chance of finding a job that suits your skill set.

Alternatives to High Priced Colleges

Instead of a four-year college, consider a career college – a vocational technical school – where the cost of a quality education is much lower. And you acquire skills that may get you hired in months instead of waiting through four years of undergraduate study and another two years in grad school, and incurring a student debt load that’ll limit your options for years to come.

Another alternative? Go to a local community college or junior college and get an associate’s degree, usually for much less than a four year college. When you finish, you have a degree and college credits that can transfer to a higher-priced, four-year university if you want to continue your studies.

Speed up your education. If you take summer courses, you can finish a four year degree in three years. Sure, it’s more work, but you save on tuition, room and board, and other expenses because you knocked off a year of campus life – and you’re a year ahead in your job search.

Take advantage of regional student funding programs. For example, the Western Undergraduate Exchange can lower tuition costs for Nevada residents who want to attend nearby state universities.

Whether you’re a Mom or Dad trying to figure out how to pay those tuition bills, or you’re looking for alternatives to high-priced colleges, remember, where you go to school probably doesn’t count as much as you might think. Acquiring highly-desirable skills through a post-high school education does count.

Get that education. Just don’t worry that a low-cost education will hold you back in the future. The experts agree that it won’t.

  1. http://projectonstudentdebt.org/files/pub/classof2013.pdf (page 9)
  2. www.nber.org/papers/w17159.pdf (page 23)
  3. http://time.com/54342/it-doesnt-matter-where-you-go-to-college/


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.


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