Login

The Best Time of Your Life or the Biggest Debt of Your Life?

Oct 13, 2011

Many high school students can't wait for graduation time so that they can move on to what should be one of the best experiences of their lives. But more and more students are realizing that this may mean taking on one of the biggest debts too. The Education Insider reviews some of the financial concerns that come from attending college.

View popular schools

By Erin Tigro

money

How Much Is Too Much?

Movies, TV shows, magazines and books often glamorize college as a 4-year VIP pass to parties, social clubs, sporting events and other networking opportunities. And somewhere along the way you earn a degree that should change your life for the better. But is the cost to attend college really worth it? It is important to note that in the midst of our country's economic hardship, those with a college degree have fared best. However, according to The New York Times, in 2010, individuals who graduated from a 4-year institution with student loan debt left owing an average of $24,000. The costs don't end there for those who want to attend graduate or professional school. Also, this figure doesn't take into account higher balances that may come about as a result of compounded interest, which you may be subject to if you defer your loans or fail to pay.

How Student Loan Debt May Affect You in the Future

College tuition rates are rising, which will arguably raise the student debt in this country. Not surprisingly, student loan default rates have also been on the rise. In fact, another article published in The New York Times indicated that student loan debt exceeded U.S. credit card debt for the first time in 2010. In addition, various publications have noted the predicted economic impact from these exorbitant and seemingly perpetual bills. Because many graduates may take more than a decade to pay back their college fees, they may not be able to spend their income in a way that would stimulate economic growth. They may decide to push back major purchases, such as a buying a home. What's more, this huge debt will undoubtedly affect other areas of personal finance, including savings, investments and retirement planning.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Costs to Attend College

In 2011, the not-for-profit organization College Board indicated that for the previous decade, required fees to attend 4-year schools increased more than five percent above the rate of inflation. While the costs to attend college remain high, many students are able to qualify for subsidized tuition schedules as a result of grants and scholarships. The following stats reflect the average tuition and fees for the 2010-2011 academic year, prior to any financial assistance:

Type of Postsecondary Institution Average Tuition and Fees
Public 2-year $2,713
Public 4-year $7,605 (in-state)
Public 4-year $19,595 (out-of-state)
Private, nonprofit 4-year $27,293

What Can You Afford?

If you're just starting college, decide what you want to major in first. Don't waste time taking classes that may not even apply to your major. All you'll be doing is running up your tab. However, after you've decided what you want to study, do some research and find out how much you can expect to earn with the type of degree you'll be pursuing. Famed financial advisor Suze Orman indicates to work backwards and calculate how much of a monthly payment you would be willing, comfortable and able to make after you graduate, taking into account living expenses and other anticipated costs. This may prompt you to reconsider your career path, but it will also help you figure out a total loan amount that you can afford. The U.S. Department of Education and websites like FinAid offer student loan payment calculators to help with this.

Paying Off Your Debt

If you graduate college with federal loan debt, you may be able to discharge your remaining current balance after ten years by working in public service. After 25 years of paying, you may also be able to quash the remaining balance. Other than that, there aren't too many choices to get around paying off your balance in full. Student loan debt is typically not dischargeable in bankruptcy. What's more, if you fail to make your payments and don't arrange a workout plan, your income tax refund or wages could be garnished.

Continue reading for tips on how to pay down your student loan debt.

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma of GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

    • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
    • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
    • Master of Science in Health Informatics
    • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Science in Finance
    • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
    • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
    • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
    • Master of Arts in Economics
    • Master of Public Administration and Policy
    • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
    • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
    • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
    • Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Analytics and Management
    • Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Science in Communication
    • Master of Science in Education in Special Education
    • Master of Science in Engineering Technology
    • Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management
    • Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology
    • Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management

    What is your highest level of education?

    • MSHS in Health Care Quality
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
    • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
    • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development
    • Graduate Certificate in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
    • Graduate Certificate in Transition Special Education
    • Education Specialist in Educational Leadership and Administration
    • Graduate Certificate in E-Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration
    • Master of Arts in Human Resource Management
    • Master of Arts in International Development
    • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership
    • Master of Arts in Special Education
    • Master of Science in Accountancy
    • RN to Bachelors of Science in Nursing

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Ph.D. in Literacy
    • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
    • Ph.D. in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
    • Master of Business Administration in Interdisciplinary Business
    • Master of Business Administration in Taxation
    • Master of Science in Accounting
    • Master of Science in Taxation
    • Master of Science in Library and Information Science
    • Master of Science in Library and Information Science: Academic Librarianship

    What is your highest level of education?

    • MA in Communication
    • Master of Liberal Arts
    • MA in Science Writing
    • MS in Applied Economics
    • MS in Geographic Information Systems
    • MS in Bioinformatics
    • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Government Analytics
    • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Applied Research for Communication
    • MS in Food Safety Regulation
    • Certificate in Science Writing
    • Certificate in Science, Technology, and International Security Studies
    • Post-Master's Certificate in Sequence Analysis & Genomics

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Doctor of Business Administration - Management
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Special Education
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
    • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
    • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
    • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
    • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
    • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
    • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
    • BS in Applied Management
    • BS in Psychology
    • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
    • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
    • BS in Accounting
    • Graduate Certificate of Completion in GeroPsychology
    • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Forensic Psychology
    • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Health Psychology
    • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Human Factors Psychology
    • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Life Coaching

    What is your highest level of education?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?