College is More Important Than Ever… But Also More Expensive!

The competitive job market we are currently experiencing means that a college degree is more important for career success than ever before. Unfortunately, as you probably know, the cost of attending college is also at an all-time high. A recent study reveals that middle-class families are being hit particularly hard. A recent article posted on the Indiana Economic Digest explains:

According to study by the Lumina Foundation and Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, bad economic conditions have made getting a college degree a higher priority. Workers with high school degrees lost 5.8 million jobs between December 2007 and February 2012, while those with bachelor’s degrees gained 2.2 million.

A study from the University of Wisconsin, meanwhile, shows that middle-class families take on more college debt than any other group. Students from households earning between $40,000 and $99,000 annually graduate with $4,000 to $6,000 more debt than students with lower incomes.

Thomas Ratliff, associate vice president from financial aid at IWU explains “We know that college costs have gone up, but the demands to get someone ready for the workplace have also done so exponentially in recent years,” he said. “We offer an extensive amount of both merit-based and financial-need-based gift aid in scholarships and grants to help families hit the target figures and keep college affordable. We’d prefer that students graduate with no debt, but that’s not always possible.

“There’s a lot of gift aid available at the federal and state levels for the highest financial-need students, and a little bit more merit aid goes to high-income families that have higher education backgrounds with the parents and a lot of support to encourage students to excel. The middle-income families are particularly getting stung.”

John Lightle, dean of Ivy Tech’s Marion campus, said he’s seen more students he would describe as middle-class in the halls over the past couple years, and he encourages students to consider all their options when choosing a college.

“For a lot of students a university is a good fit, but there’s a group that plan to go and after orientation have a ‘reality moment,’ that this is a lot more expensive that what they can afford,” he said. “The amount of debt being accumulated is a concern for all colleges, which is why we all encourage families to search what their options are and make the best decision for them.”

The bottom line is that today’s college students and their families are trapped between a rock and a hard place, as the saying goes. On one hand, a college degree is all but required for most career paths—particularly so in today’s competitive job market. On the other hand, earning a degree means taking on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt for many students and their families.

But there is a bit of good news. There are proven strategies which can help students and their parents pay considerably less for college. We’ve written about them in depth in previous articles and blog entries—and if you would like to learn more about the options that are available to you in order to make college more affordable, give us a call today!

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