Not your grandparents’ college experience

Russ Bennett  ·  May 31, 2015

It’s no secret that college has changed a lot since our grandparents went to college. If you have a teenager considering college today, one of the first things you notice is it sure costs a lot more now than it used to.

Since 1975, the cost of education has increased almost 1,200 percent. This is far more than the increase in prices of food and other durable goods.

Gas prices skyrocketed a few years ago, but if they had kept pace with college costs, we’d now be paying almost $6 per gallon.

Here are some other dramatic changes in the economics of college:

  • Only one out of four families save money for college, and the average family who does save for college only has enough to pay for the first year. This has resulted in significant college debt, and on the average, students don’t pay off their college loans until 21 years after graduation.
  • More people are starting college than ever, but they’re also going further into debt.
  • A study conducted by Gallup and Purdue University last year revealed that students with significant college debt are three times less likely to say they’re thriving in life. They’re stuck in limbo with student loan payments and, sometimes, no degree.
  • Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates what jobs will be available in 10 years, author Dan Miller points out they can’t tell us what half of those jobs will be, due to our rapidly-changing society. Some top jobs today, like social media managers and app developers, didn’t even exist fifteen years ago. Yet many families spend tens of thousands of dollars in pursuit of a credential that they can only hope will provide security for a lifetime.

In spite of this, college remains a valuable step for many students to strengthen their income mobility. According to national averages, the difference between having a high school diploma and having a four-year college degree means $457 more income on the average per week.

College degrees are a convenient way for employers to verify that potential hires have a baseline level of knowledge, and that is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

Since, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, the key is to ask the right questions and find creative solutions to achieve a quality college experience, without the debt.