Money Talks, So Should You

Is advanced education worth the cost?

Education is an expensive investment in your future. So you should know what exactly you're paying for.

Brandon Lafving
by Brandon Lafving, Dimespring Contributor (@TechDragoon)

Advanced education is definitely valuable, but considering the cost of many 4-year degrees, is it worth it?

No one was asking this question 10 years ago. Because back then, college grads were more employable, and college education was not nearly as expensive as it is in 2013. Now, over half of recent college grads are either unemployed or underemployed. And universities have steadily increased their prices while income has remained equal.

Even with tax credits and Federal student loans, an average family will find it extremely difficult to pay for college. And taking out substantial student loans has financially crippled many college graduates who remain out of work for years, unable to pay off their debt or move forward with life.

READ: Extra financial aid after graduation unwise for students

We are asking whether the 4-year degree is worth it because we need to ask. Most students need more than 50% assurance they will have a job waiting for them when they graduate.

Institutions and researchers are discovering that a graduate's employability depends on what state they are in and what kind of degree they walk away with.

CollegeMeasures studies the worth of college education on a regional level and has made a number of interesting discoveries regarding the relative value of college programs. The findings are not always what you would expect.

For instance, a study published in November, 2012, discovered that in Virginia, college grads who majored in either Nursing or Business had the highest average earnings in their first year after college. Two-year nursing degrees were only slightly behind, with $45,342 average salary as compared with $48,959 for four-year degrees.

READ: How to beat the most common post-grad money mistakes

That is roughly $3,600 more per year at the cost of two more years of schooling and however much money in tuition.

A number of lucrative careers do not require the 4-year baccalaureate. Air Traffic Controllers, Construction Managers, Radiation Therapists, Nuclear Medical Technologists, Dental Hygienists, Nuclear Technicians, and Registered Nurses all earn over $60,000 annual salaries, on average. Technical degrees can prepare you for them all.

These careers are a great value for the education because our society needs more professionals in this line of work. Most of these positions are in high demand currently, and they are expected to be in high demand for the next seven years, at least.

The short answer is: advanced education can be worth the cost, but there are currently many opportunities for students to make 2-year degree count for more than baccalaureates.

READ: Will I be taxed for employer tuition assistance?

If you cannot afford to move on to graduate school after the college degree (in case you cannot find a lucrative job), then a technical degree might be a better option.

Then, who knows? You could work for six years, save some money, and then go back to school without going into unmanageable debt.

Brandon D. Lafving is an independent writer with an interest in financial systems. A graduate of Princeton University, Brandon has published journalism in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metro, and WXPN. He also consults, researches and writes reports for small and mid-size businesses.