Compare college costs, career goals

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Faced with potential state funding cuts, Mid-Plains governors will discuss raising tuition and fees at their meeting today, but regardless of their decision, the local community college will remain a bargain.

In-state tuition is $84 per credit hour for the 2016-17 year, and that includes the adjoining states of Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming as well.

Even out-of-state tuition, at $109 a credit hour, is a fraction of the U.S. average college credit cost, $594.46, according to a study by Student Loan Hero.

It's no wonder that outstanding student loan balances totaled $1.31 trillion at the end of 2016, 10 percent of the national debt pool, second only to mortgage debt, with is 67 percent, and just ahead of auto loans, 9 percent.

Social media abound with memes by Mke Roe of "Dirty Jobs" and others promoting the demand for skilled workers who don't have college degrees, as well as examples of dropouts who made billions: think Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

But a college degree is still valuable, provided you pick the right one and willing to allow enough time for it to pay off.

According to a new report fromThe College Board, it takes an average of 12 years to recoup the cost of your bachelor's degree, or by the age 34 for the average traditional student.

College grads with a full-time job earned a median 67 percent more than high school grads, not counting those who earned advanced degrees.

And although some millennials do have trouble finding work, the unemployment rate for 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor's degree was 2.6 percent or some 5 percentage points below the unemployment rate for high school graduates of the same age.

Still, The College Board study assumes students graduated in four yeas, paid an interest rate of 4.3 percent on the loans and finish paying off your debt in 10 years. In reality, only 60 percent of college students finish their degree in six years and private loans come with higher interest rates and might take longer to pay off.

But the median income for 30- to 34-year old is $40,944 for those with a bachelor's degree and $31,807 for those with no higher than a high school diploma.

This spring's graduates would do well to give careful consideration to their goals and whether traditional college or technical training or even some sort of apprenticeship would best help meet those goals.

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