In a recent article in the New York Times, Ron Lieberman addressed some important questions about financial aid submitted to him by prospective college students. In introducing his topic, however, he makes an important point: “Figuring out how to pay for college has quickly turned into one of life’s most complicated financial decisions.” He gives a few reasons for this:
- There’s uncertainty as to whether the student making the decision will be able to pay back his student loans.
- There’s uncertainty as to whether spending more on a prestigious school will lead to a future that pays more as well.
- There’s the issue of inexperience, the fact that the prospective student has never had to make a decision with such far-reaching and expensive consequences before.
- There’s a lack of good information, plus a scarcity of reliable sources to provide it.
There’s also uncertainty in whether college grads will find their expensive degrees valuable in the job search after graduation. In just the last few years, technology, aging baby boomers, and our changing economy have redefined what the most in-demand jobs will be in our recent future. The BLS outlined the following as the fastest growing jobs through 2018:
- Biomedical engineers 72%
- Network systems analysts 53%
- Home health aides 50%
- Personal and home-care aides 46%
Some students may choose their major based on potential job security and choose one of the above fields that is projected to be lucrative. However, some may make a seemingly right decision, and find they made the wrong choice after graduation. Many students dive right into college out of high school with a vague idea of how important their major is to securing a career and for their future happiness. Within their four or more years of college, students commonly change majors, minors, and many transfer schools. Not only does this hike up tuition, it is also telling of how people’s interests change over the course of their life, or even a few years. Check out the article “Picked the Wrong Major? Here’s How to Pivot Into Entrepreneurship,” for real stories on young adults who changed their career path after graduation.
Yes, there is a lot of uncertainty going into college. Is it for me? Do I have an alternative? Do I want to have this career for the rest of my life? Will I feel passionate about my career choice in ten years? It’s hard to say. But you can take the financial guesswork out of a college education by getting prepared early. Parents need to talk to their children about their finances and open a discussion about what college is practical and what choices the student has for higher education. Our book Dollars & Sense: How to Be Smart About Money is a great financial literacy tool for teenagers. They get answers to their questions about saving, spending, and attending college and activities that require them to practice smart spending and saving with a goal in mind. Each chapter also contains questions the teen can ask their parents to become more involved in making adult financial decisions to prepare them for the rest of their lives.