Advice to the College Bound: Keep Your Options Open

Friday, April 08, 2016 Written by 
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According to employment statistics, 2016 promises to be a banner year for the job outlook.  Those graduating college this year can expect to see an 11% increase in hiring over last year.  


Those with degrees in business, engineering, computer science, and accounting will have the most job offers.  Getting that degree is the reward for hard work and fulfillment of the promise that 4-year colleges are supposed to bring.


According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, a college degree accounted for $15,000 in additional income per year versus a high school diploma ($30,000 versus $45,000). Over a 30-year career in the workforce, that adds up to a $450,000 difference.


With the cost of 4-year colleges and universities ever increasing, however, the financial picture isn’t always so straight forward.  There are other factors to consider which could be just as beneficial to young people who want a good education.  


First, a bachelor's degree typically takes four years of study, which means that people who enter the workforce after receiving their bachelor's degree aren't doing so until age 22. This gives the person attending a vocational school or 2-year college a head start in the “real world” vs. more time in the class room.  It matters when employers require experience vs. academic learning. estimates that a trade school graduate will make about $42,000 per year. Over the course of 30 years, the difference between that trade school graduate and the 4-year college graduate is only $90,000.  


Another drawback is the cost.  The average bachelor's degree in the United States costs $127,000. The likelihood that you will attend school in another city or state increases with 4-year colleges.  This means you’ll encounter added expenses that you would probably be able to avoid like out-of-state tuition and travel costs. 


At the same time, the average trade school degree costs $33,000, which, compared to a $127,000 bachelor's degree, means a savings of $94,000. Factoring in the cost of student loans at 4% over 10 years, a bachelor’s degree will cost around $154,000, while the trade school degree will cost only $40,000. You do the math. 


Aside from financial considerations, there is the time element.  Those who attend vocational schools, for example, are less likely to have to take and pay for classes unrelated to their majors.  The appeal of a “well rounded” education, doesn’t always make sense when you are already clear about your career path and want to finish school as soon as possible.


Graduating from college, a trade school or even high school is still a big deal; graduates at all levels are to be applauded.  And those who go on to 4-year colleges definitely have higher earning potential.  There are no guarantees, however. With mounting debt from student loans, it pays to think smart about your valuable time and money, and keep your options open.


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