After speeches, consider cold economic facts

Monday, May 9, 2016

Speakers gave this weekends' graduates a lot of advice, but dropping out of school wasn't among it.

We've all heard the stories about college dropouts doing well -- Time has a Top 10 list in fact: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, James Cameron, Mark Zuckerberg, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Lady Gaga and Tiger Woods.

But unless you're lucky enough to be a computer pioneer, actor or professional athlete, you're better off getting that college degree.

Better off by some $830,000 over a lifetime, compared to a high school diploma, according to a 2014 Federal Reserve study.

But there's no direct correlation between the amount of money spent on that education and lifetime earnings, especially if it takes a long time to pay off college debt with a relatively small income.

Attending a big name college may translate into a higher salary, but comparing the price to the earning potential may give lesser colleges the edge.

A college's reputation may be worth the higher tuition, but a bachelor's or master's degree may not be worth it if you can accomplish your goals with an associate's degree.

Students may pay a premium for smaller class sizes, but smart students will excel regardless of where they earn their degree.

A degree will help you get your first job, but your GPA, work experience and course of study are important as well.

That last point is a major factor in earnings; students with technical training such as engineering or math and computers earn 21 to 18 percent more than those without such degrees, and those majoring in liberal arts, leisure and hospitality tend to earn less.

Still, every major is worth an average of 9 percent more than not having a degree.

You may need a high SAT score to get into a prestigious college, but a Harvard Business Review story found that almost half of the top executives at Fortune 100 companies did not go to prestigious schools.

A good goal is to keep your student loan borrowing to a minimum

p, not borrowing more for your education than you intend to make in your first year out of college.

Community colleges like the Mid-Plains branches in McCook and North Platte are in a good position to offer valuable degrees at low cost, with the added advantage of convenience and small class sizes.

Recent graduates and nontraditional students who wish to increase their earning potential at a reasonable cost would do well to check them out.

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