Was your degree worth it? Most recent grads are saying no.
For the second year in a row, the Gallup Organization, along with Purdue University, surveyed about 30,000 graduates of four-year colleges in the U.S. The survey asked about how their college experience influenced their happiness in life and at work, years or decades later.
The poll showed that half of all alumni surveyed “strongly agreed” college was worth the cost. On the other hand, when recent grads from 2006 and later were asked, only 38 percent “strongly agreed” that college was worth it. Out of recent grads with $50,000 or more in student loans, only 18 percent “strongly agreed” that college was worth being buried in debt for the foreseeable future.
There is currently $1.3 trillion in student loan debt in this country, and just as they did last year, the pollsters this year found that private and/or prestigious colleges had no advantage over public and open-access schools when it comes to turning out alumni who thrive.
What does this mean for YOU?
If you haven’t started college yet:
- Think twice before taking out massive amounts of student loans. Just because someone will give you the loans does not mean you should take them. Aside from that degree, what are you desiring to get from college that you could possibly get somewhere cheaper? Can you live with friends without doing the dorms? Do you want to do internships and find out what you like? Try job shadowing or just finding an entry-level position in the field you want to explore. Think college is the only way to meet your future spouse? Try young adult groups at other churches and Christian dating sites and you will find that there are quality people outside of college campuses.
- Consider education alternatives. Do you really need to go to a private school? Will community college work for two years and then a local school? Does your future career warrant a degree? If you want to be a missionary, perhaps try jumping straight into missions work and taking online classes on the side. Look at the actual cost of your dream schools versus your local state school—ask yourself what you would do with an extra $50,000 when all is said and done.
- Apply, apply, apply for scholarships. This isn’t your mom or your guidance counselor telling you this—it’s the students who have made the mistakes before you and skipped out on applying for scholarships. Check out Fastweb, Scholarships.com and the app Scholly to start. Ask your high school and future college for more ideas.
If you’ve already done the damage and gotten yourself into a lot of student loan debt:
- Don’t make it worse. Just because you don’t really know what to do next does NOT mean you should get a master’s degree. Do it IF your future career requires it and will pay enough to pay back the loan. Also, hold off on using credit cards and buying new cars or other large purchases that will bring you additional monthly bills.
- Figure out a plan. What are some ways you are going to pay back those loans? There are several organizations that have programs to help, such as Teach for America and these other jobs and programs. Maybe now is a good time to live with family and get ahead on paying down your debt. Meeting with a financial adviser or even someone you know who is good a financial planner is a great place to start!
- Don’t despair or feel sorry for yourself. First of all, you are not alone. Almost everyone I went to college with at Biola University has taken out more than $50,000 in student loans because it is an expensive, private university. I took out almost twice that amount! However, while all of us wish that number were lower, we also have things we gained at college that are invaluable: spouses, best friends, growth in our relationship with God, career training and all that jazz. Instead of regret choices you’ve made in the past, look at how your life now can set your future self up for success.
Do you think college was “worth it”? Have you taken out a bunch of loans to attend a university?