At the time of year when witches, ghosts, and spooky stories are on everyone’s mind, it seems only appropriate to bring up some scary financial decisions that many Americans make. When words like mortgage, investment, vacation, and retirement come to mind, people understandably begin to panic. For me, the spookiest financial decision I have ever made was to go to an expensive private university. With college prices increasing annually at rates exponentially faster than other commodities, it is sure to be on the forefront of many people’s minds.
Although there are undeniable benefits to a college education, does an education from an expensive, private university get you much further than education from a more affordable state school? Am I guaranteed a starting salary equivalent to the yearly cost of my education? Am I willing to pay off loans for the next 25 years of my life?
These questions prove overwhelming to think about in the long run. For me, the decision to attend an expensive university was a calculated choice. However, in hindsight, I felt like I did not have all of the facts. For instance, where you go for an undergrad degree does not really matter if you don’t know exactly what you want to do. I, for one, am content to study everything from anthropology to Spanish, either of which I could study at any decent state university. Other financial factors include geographical location; if you choose a far away school, you must consider air fare. If you are lucky enough to receive financial aid, know that it may vary greatly year to year since you must submit a yearly application. Text books at any university cost hundreds of dollars per semester, something that people forget to consider as an included cost when they choose the expensive university. Scholarships, if you are lucky enough to get them, may have very strict retention clauses, and may be awarded only for a limited number of terms.
That being said, investing in education is an investment in your future. I have made an effort to use as many resources offered by my fancy private university as possible to ensure a stable future, especially given the historical state of the job market into which I will shortly be entering. The hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest and principal I will be paying off for several decades only give me a greater incentive to create a stable and lucrative future for myself.
College is a terrifying monetary commitment, one which couples begin saving for before they are even parents. Fortunately or unfortunately, a bachelor’s degree is becoming a prerequisite for innumerable careers. The question should not be should you go to college, but rather, are you willing to cope with the consequences of paying off 4 years of education for the next 25 years of your life? Now that is something only you can answer.