Though attending college isn't always a prerequisite to getting a job, many high school grads feel compelled to pursue a degree for fear that they'll be largely unemployable if they don't go that route. And there is some truth to that sentiment: College graduates across the board tend to out-earn their non-graduate counterparts.
Unfortunately, the cost of college today is so outrageous that many students have no choice but to rack up serious debt to attend. And while some might chalk that debt up to an investment in their future, a large of number of graduates are notably unhappy about it. In fact, 42% of Americans feel that their college degrees weren't worth the amount of debt they created, according to a new survey by GOBankingRates.
Given that Americans owe upward of $1.5 trillion collectively, this sentiment isn't surprising. It is, however, unfortunate.
That said, while many college graduates regret having racked up so much debt, they don't regret the decision to pursue a degree. Therefore, if you're planning to attend college, it pays to explore your options for doing so as cheaply as possible.
Keeping your college debt to a minimum
You may have no choice but to take on some level of debt to obtain a college degree, but that doesn't mean you can't take steps to minimize your loans in the process. One of the easiest ways to do so is to choose a less expensive school. Opting for a four-year public college in your home state over a private one could save you a solid $100,000 in tuition alone. Similarly, living at home and commuting to college will spare you the cost of dorming -- which, for the 2018-2019 academic year, was $11,140 at public colleges and $12,680 for private ones, on average.
Working during your studies will also help you keep your debt level relatively low. Many schools offer work-study programs that will set you up with a job on campus, but you'll often need to apply in advance to benefit from them.
At the same time, completing your studies on time will help you avoid having to pay for extra classes or semesters, thereby adding to your costs. To that end, aim to choose a major relatively early on during college, and if that's not possible, at the very least, spend your first year knocking out core requirements so they're not hanging over your head later on. On the other hand, if you are able to pinpoint a major on the early side, you might manage to finish college in three years, or three and a half, thereby sparing yourself from having to enroll for that last semester or two.
Finally, if possible, try to limit your student debt to federal loans only. The interest rates associated with federal loans can be substantially lower than what private lenders will charge you, and that will help you keep your costs down. Furthermore, federal loans come with a number of borrower protections that private loans don't offer, so they're a better bet across the board when you're financing an education.
The fact that 42% of Americans feel college wasn't worth the debt isn't shocking. If you want to avoid feeling similarly once you have that diploma in hand, make an effort to keep your costs -- and your loans -- as low as possible. With any luck, you'll wind up with the best of both worlds -- better job prospects and minimal debt to go along with them.