How to Fit College into a Family Budget Part 2

Busted Myths of Fitting College into a Family Budget

Let’s take a look at some common myths around paying for a college education. Some of these myths can become real roadblocks if left unchecked. Don’t let any outdated assumptions around college options prevent you or your family members from achieving educational goals. When it comes to college, you have choices. 

Let’s explore some of the most common myths:

Myth #1 - College is too expensive. I will never be able to save enough to send my child or go back to college myself, so why bother? 

It’s true, college is expensive. However, the cost of not earning your college degree can have an even bigger impact on your overall financial well-being. Studies have shown that there is a million dollar difference between a college graduate’s lifetime earnings compared to a high school graduate’s.4 In other words, the downside of not earning your college degree is bigger than the downside of possibly taking on student loan debt.

Myth #2 - The only way I can pay for college is with student loans. But with all the discussion about student loans negatively affecting a student’s future, I’m better off with no student loans… even if it means no college degree.

Sure, students loans can be overwhelming. The average student loan debt for a college graduate is currently $26,600.5 Remember, however, that this number is the average – you or your family don’t have to graduate with that much student loan debt. You have choices. In fact, you don’t need to take out student loans in order to start taking college courses. How? By intentionally becoming a transfer student.

Intentional transfer students actively choose educational opportunities that will allow them to avoid taking out student loans for introductory college courses. They do so by mindfully finding and enrolling in low-cost introductory college courses, either through a community college or a low-cost online college course provider like StraighterLine. Once they complete the prerequisite college courses they need, they intentionally transfer them for credit to a higher cost 4-year college or university where they plan on ultimately earning their degree. If you choose this route, when you graduate, your degree will look like every other student’s, but as a transfer student, you will have paid significantly less for your diploma.

Myth #3 - You will waste money going to college if you don’t know exactly what you want to major in or what you will do with your college degree when you graduate.  

Hardly. Not knowing exactly what career path you want to follow is common when you begin the college process. Education often educates students as to where their talent and passion reside. The truth is, whether you plan on majoring in engineering, math, English, business, or nursing, etc., you will be required to take a common core of introductory college courses. These introductory college courses include college classes like English composition and college algebra. Instead of delaying your college education as you figure out what you want to do career-wise, use that goal-setting time to take introductory college courses for transfer later down the road. When you are ready to declare your major, you’ll be a semester or two ahead. 

Taking college courses before enrolling in college is a smart move financially and educationally. Doing so allows you to build a solid academic foundation on which you can be confident that you are capable of not only pursuing, but also completing, your college degree.

4National Association of College and University Business Officers, Lifetime Earnings: College Graduates Still Earn More, 10/2012, p.1

5The Project on Student Debt, Average Student Debt Climbs to $26,600 for Class of 2011, 2013, p.1

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