Does the ROI of College Make It Worth the Cost?

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It's no secret that the cost of higher education is climbing. Recently President Obama proposed a new ranking system for colleges that would make them both more accountable and affordable by evaluating the cost of tuition and quality of education, and factor in financial aid and amount of debt post-graduation.

I am fortunate to be in a position to provide for my kids' education—and I'm very grateful. Many parents simply can't, and so their kids take out student loans and begin their post-graduate life in significant debt. Add to that the fact that, according to the Washington Post, only 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major, and it's no surprise that many are starting to wonder if the return on investment (ROI) warrants earning a degree in the first place.

I feel strongly, and I believe most people would agree with me, that education is always worth the cost. Here are a few words of wisdom from my own experience as a graduate and now as a parent to a college student that I hope will help others come to that conclusion as well:

1. Think long term. One thing that you can count on is that things change. Sure the present job market sucks, and the earning potential of a college graduate is not what it used to be, but that's just the way things are right now. I believe that eventually the economy will cycle back and the job market will follow. When it does, a degree will give you a leg up on the competition.

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2. Don't let the dollar be your guide. A survey on Salary.com says that for some degrees the potential earnings from related jobs simply aren't enough to justify the high cost of tuition. That may be true if you're looking at hard numbers, but there's more to ROI than just money—for one, what about happiness? If you choose your major based on how much money it might earn you, you could end up miserable.

3. Look at the silver lining. In an article for Huffington Post, Jodi Okun, financial aid consultant at Occidental College, explained that in addition to helping pay for college, there's another benefit students should keep in mind when taking out loans: "By paying them back, they'll also help you build your credit history and help you learn how to manage your money." When I went from being completely covered by my folks to having to work within a budget, balance a checkbook, and pay for my own groceries, rent, and utilities, it was a rude awakening.

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4. Be creative. There are the obvious jobs that relate to your degree, and then there are the not-so-obvious. A down market forces people to think outside the box when it comes to their job search. An article posted on USNews.com points out, "If you have a degree in English, you've likely already considered the obvious option of teaching or writing, but publishing, proofreading, speech-writing, or becoming a paralegal might not have crossed your mind."

5. Make it count. If you don't find a job in your field, take advantage of the time by networking (it's all about connections!) and interning. Employers hire people who already have skills and experience. That's one reason it's hard to get hired straight out of college today, but you can build your resumé through internships. Another advantage? When a position does open up, you're already there. Nothing beats being at the right place at the right time.

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