Student loans: Lessons learned, choosing a major, and overcoming regrets

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  • Liberal Ted Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 22, 2013 11:53 a.m.

    The trouble with higher education, is that it doesn't necessarily make you smarter or more capable. Especially with finances.

    Schools lure you in, telling you that the average person with a degree makes 'x' amount of dollars. Then they tell you how much a degree in pottery costs and tell you how quickly you'll recoup that money. Unsuspecting students go in and gain their liberal art education, graduate and find they are making less than the high school drop out that has worked at the company for 5 years already.

    That's because they average every graduates wages together. So you have the Engineers, Business and others that actually pull in high figure salaries. Average that out and wala everyone makes at least $40,000-$60,000 starting.

    I'm not saying higher education isn't worth it. But, they should be required to tell the truth, rather than seek to bring in students to increase the tax revenue the school gets to fund their programs. That's what is happening. X number of students equal Y dollars.

    As the stock market you can invest in it, but there are risks involved.

  • Ironwood Calgary, 00
    Nov. 21, 2013 1:35 p.m.

    I was 9 when I reviewed the decision to become an engineer for the last time in 1963. In high school in Quebec 1971 I learned that two schools offered Coop Engineering Schools in Canada, Waterloo and Memorial. I applied to the latter and graduated in 1978 after two years of CEPE and 5 years at Memorial. I was 1100$ in demand debt down.

    In 2005 I heard about a girl wanted to do medicine at Sesquihana U. I checked it out in 2012 and Seq. U cost 52K/yr, and the best Med school in the world (McMaster in Hamilton Ont just 100 miles away) cost 40K/yr w/o exchange rates which favoured McMaster!

    Do engineering in coop, that pays for everything but the first two terms.

  • OHBU Columbus, OH
    Nov. 20, 2013 4:58 p.m.

    Something often overlooked in these articles, as pointed out by Business Insider, is that the most underemployed majors reside in business (with the exception of Accounting). Science and Technology are top, but Art History, Philosophy, and Music majors are all outperforming most business majors in the marketplace. From their article "11 Reasons to Ignore the Haters and Major In the Humanities" (2013):

    "The average unemployment rate for new graduates across all of the humanities is 9%, right on par with computer science and math (9.1%) and not too far off all majors combined (7.9%)...When it comes to underemployment, those who major in the humanities don't stick out as badly as many seem to think. The most underemployed major is actually business, because there are a ton of them and not that many jobs for those without an MBA."

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 20, 2013 4:32 p.m.

    Listening to Dave Ramsey a while back one of his callers majored in fine arts and was about $200,000 in debt from student loans. She so far was unable to find work in her field and was working odd jobs. Dave Ramsey was very impatient with her, wondering why she would go so far into debt getting a major where jobs are hard to find and that on average pay so little. She didn't have an answer.

    A friend of my son got a degree from University of Phoenix that he is now $40,000 in debt for and is unable to find a job with the degree. I asked him what he is going to do, he said he will get an other degree that he can get a job in.

    My advice? Research available degrees, and from among the ones that have a decent return on investment, choose your major from among those degrees. If this doesn't include what you are really passionate about, minor in your passion.

  • utahcitizen1 Vernal, UT
    Nov. 20, 2013 1:53 p.m.

    Ronnie W.: I do agree that she was responsible to know what she was committing to as far as how much she was borrowing, etc.

    However, the fact that she went to a for-profit school speaks volumes to me. I used to work as an employment counselor. The for-profit schools I have been involved with through some of my customers are great salesman and will say and do whatever they can to get students to feel good and sign on the dotted line with them. It is true that they sometimes provide more support (like free tutoring or mentoring) than a public university would. But they can also charge sometimes as much as 10X what a student would pay for the same degree at a public institution.

    I don't doubt that this happened to her: "The average grad in my field was making less than $26,000, nowhere near the $56,000+ mark they put on my degree when I first applied,” says Kasey."

    It would really help to educate high school students about the realities of for-profit schools vs. public colleges.

  • SUU T-bird tallahassee, fl
    Nov. 20, 2013 1:26 p.m.

    When elementary and secondary schools fail to properly train students in math and science, it should be no surprise that college students don't choose those majors. Until we focus on these two subjects, we will continue to have a bunch of graduates without marketable skills. We need to stop blaming students for choosing what they are taught and start changing what is taught.

  • RBB Sandy, UT
    Nov. 20, 2013 11:34 a.m.

    The real education process needs to start much, much earlier - i.e. the start of your freshman year in High School. I am amazed at how many of my kids friends are clueless about how their choices will affect scholarships and majors. If you can get a full tuition scholarship at a Utah School, you just got a check for $20-25,000. Getting a Regents Scholarship or Century Scholarship from the state can save you thousands. Even scholarships given by local service clubs and other organizations can make a big impact.

    Kids also need to be aware of what paycheck majors are likely to create and what they need to get that major. AP classes can save thousands, but take one that will reduce hours required and not classes you will have to retake for your major. Know what your chosen occupation is likely to pay and keep college costs reasonable in light of your future earning capacity.

    A few hours invested as a freshman in high school will pay thousands, if not tens of thousands, in dividends in college and keep you from repeating the mistakes of many.

  • PGVikingDad Pleasant Grove, UT
    Nov. 20, 2013 10:26 a.m.

    I am very passionate about this topic, because I was once drowning in debt (business debt; I finished my degree at BYU w/$2500 in debt.) I worked two full-time jobs for two years to dig out from under $40,000, and here's my advice to avoid what I endured:
    1. Stay local. Tuition for every university in Utah is between $4000 and $6000. Very affordable.
    2. Work! There is no law that says you must borrow every penny that gets you through school, and many employers will reimburse tuition. Good as a scholarship!
    3. Don't be in a hurry. Patience helps avoid costly career-choice mistakes, and taking an extra year or two to work while going to school will save a lifetime of stress.
    4. Get a *real* degree. Never, ever pay for a hobby. You know what I'm talking about.
    5. Have a plan that includes a budget.
    6. Don't borrow money for any education that doesn't offer a real chance to at least double your potential for income. Just don't.

  • Ronnie W. Layton, UT
    Nov. 20, 2013 10:28 a.m.

    "What Kasey didn’t know was that she had borrowed nearly $80,000 for her degree."

    She didn't know she had borrowed 80,000?! You can't paint someone as a victim because they were careless in their borrowing.

    "The average grad in my field was making less than $26,000, nowhere near the $56,000+ mark they put on my degree when I first applied,” says Kasey."

    I doubt this is true. The chance an average pay of graduate dropped $30,000 in the time it took you to complete school is highly improbable and easy to verify. I imagine the 56k was/is the median salary for everyone in the field.

    The point of the article should be this: bad major + loads of debt = bad news.