The latest survey by Country Financial shows more Americans are beginning to think college is not the investment it once was – and why community college might be a better deal.
There is no doubt that the cost of a college education is increasing, but as that price tag continues to go up, the general perception is now that college may not be the investment it was once touted to be. While colleges nationwide have worked to buck that idea, the bottom line doesn’t lie – nor does the astronomical total of student debt racked up in this country today. Is there a way to invest in a college education without breaking the bank?
Country Financial Survey Reveals Concerns over College Costs Growing
A new national survey by Country Financial shows that many are continuing to question the value of a college education today. According to the publication, the survey found that just over half of the Americans interviewed this year thought a college degree was still a worthwhile investment. That number has dropped significantly since 2008, when 81 percent saw college as a good deal.
Despite the telltale data into America’s perception of the value of a college degree, higher debt balances to obtain those degrees have become more acceptable. According to the Country Financial website, the survey found that 42 percent of Americans believe student debt in excess of $20,000 is acceptable today. That number contrasts with the 31 percent that found that amount acceptable just last year. By the same token, the number of subjects who thought debt under $20,000 was acceptable declined to 50 percent, after numbers were at 61 percent in 2011.
Debt Concerns Guide College Decisions
Although more Americans seem tolerant to higher loan amounts today, there are also a large number of college students who believe too much debt puts a college degree out of reach. Statistics in the Huffington Post show that the average college student in America graduates with between $23,000 and $27,000 in debt. WYTV 33 reports that students heading into the world of higher education are weighing the value of an education against those large debt balances after graduation.
“That’s a question we often get, you know, is debt worth it?” Kelly Wilson, financial aid director for Eastern Gateway Community College, told WYTV. “You have to remember, this is a college education; this is something nobody can ever take away from you.”
However, not everyone agrees that a high student debt should be racked up for the sole purpose of gaining a degree. Ryan Williams, a student at Eastern Gateway Community College, told WYTV, “A college degree is great, don’t get me wrong, but if you can’t afford to pay for it, and your life is suffering because of that. One kind of outweighs the other, I think.”
The Role of Community Colleges: Lower Costs, Less Debt
Two-year degrees cost significantly less than bachelor’s degrees, and many launch a student directly into a rewarding career or transfer to a four-year institution. Even students that end up earning a bachelor’s degree after starting out at community college can save thousands in tuition costs with this approach. Another advantage to community college enrollment today is the growing amount of financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships, which are available at community colleges nationwide.
The Wichita Business Journal reports that the perception of the quality of education at community colleges is definitely evolving for many prospective college students today. These schools are now seen as a viable means of higher education, offering a low cost option to recent high school graduates and professional adults alike. Jackie Vietti, president of Butler Community College in Kansas, told the Journal that enrollment has increased at community colleges around her state in recent years.
“It is my belief that community colleges are becoming increasingly recognized for the quality of their learning and the quality of their outcomes,” Vietti told the Journal.
Parents Footing the Bill
Whether students choose to attend a community college or four-year school after high school, there is also a perception that parents should provide at least some of the financial support to their students during this time. The Country Financial survey found that 80 percent of Americans thought parents should be responsible for at least some of the costs of college. However, most parents are also putting more of their savings into retirement than into their children’s college. Saving for both at the same time can put a financial strain on even families in the higher income brackets.
“It’s encouraging many Americans are focusing on retirement and are still willing to help their kids with the cost of college,” Joe Buhrmann, manager of financial security support at Country Financial, stated on the company’s website. “However, saving for both can be challenging. Parents and their children should work together to decide how much they should realistically borrow for college and see how each can contribute. Planning and consulting a knowledgeable professional can help you balance both of these needs.”
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