College can still be worth it for many students provided that they have an appetite for academic rigor and an understanding of which schools and majors provide a good return on investment.
College has taken quite a beating lately.
Unemployment is up to 7.6 percent this month, and recent college grads are entering a lackluster workforce with alarmingly high amounts of student debt. In fact, Americans have $986 billion in student loan debt as of 2013. Because of this, some experts claim that for most Americans, college isn’t worth their time — or their money.
However, as The New York Times points out, even with the high unemployment rate and rising student loan debt, college grads are still faring much better than those without undergraduate degrees.
“Among all segments of workers sorted by educational attainment, college graduates are the only group that has more people employed today than when the recession started,” the Times’ Catherine Rampell wrote in May.
Either way, analysts are focusing increasingly on how American college students can maximize the profits of their education
One such approach was proposed by former secretary of education William Bennett, who believes prospective students should be more careful while choosing what college to attend.
“College can still be worth it for many students,” he wrote in a column for USA Today last month, “provided that they have an appetite for academic rigor and an understanding of which schools and majors provide a good return on investment.”
Jessica Patel, an analyst with Bankrate.com, agrees with Bennett that incoming students should choose their majors carefully.
In a study led by Patel, Bankrate discovered that though some majors don’t seem to be worth the investment, or the debt, others — such as advertising, economics and civil engineering — are worth the price of admission.
For example, a degree in marketing costs roughly $52,000 (including tuition, room, board and other nominal fees) but the median pay for those in marketing and advertising, according to Bankrate’s data, comes to $107,950 per year. That means if the average marketing professional pays 10 percent of his salary per year to repay college loans, he will be free of student debt in a little more than five years.
A marriage and family therapist, on the other hand, will likely take close to 35 years to pay back the $68,010 he owes for his six years of schooling, at a median salary of $68,010.
That’s not to say those who are passionate about family counseling should abandon their dreams.
“The reason we did this was to provide a tool for students and parents,” Patel said in an interview with the Deseret News. “If you want to be a veterinarian or marriage and family therapist, at least you know these are the risks you have to face.”
One of the more interesting findings of the study is that advanced degrees are often not worth the extra cost.
The top three jobs, according to Bankrate’s degree ROI ranking, only require a four-year degree. Of the bottom seven, the only jobs that required no advanced degree were news reporters and teachers. All the rest required a minimum of two years past an undergraduate degree, which means two more years of student debt.
“If you know that you are going to need a graduate degree and you will need student loans, maybe you should think about scholarships,” Patel said, “or maybe you should think about a different degree.”
“Though passions are great,” she continued, “you really should think about how long it will take you to pay off those student loans in the future.”