Are Student Loans Worth the Debt?

This is a very difficult question to answer. These days, it seems like it’s almost impossible to get a foot in the door without first earning a degree. And you definitely can’t expect to advance beyond a certain point without one. On the other hand, cutbacks in state funding have swept the nation during the recession, causing most schools to raise costs left and right in an effort to keep facilities and staff in operation. Although most states have limits on percentage of increase for tuition, schools have been able to skirt the laws by adding all kinds of fees that never materialize into actual useable goods and services for the students who pay them. And what is a degree really worth these days anyway? Will spending a ton of money on your higher education even result in a job that will allow you to pay for said schooling?

These are all valid questions that every student should be asking as their parents shove them towards college. Think long and hard about what you want to do. This is the key to answering every question posed thus far. The truth is, certain degrees are worth the money and certain ones are not, and the difference between the two is earning potential. Some jobs are slated for high earnings. Doctors, lawyers, and corporate executives all have the potential to make a ton of dough, thereby validating the ridiculous amounts of schooling (and ivy league schools) generally required for them to complete their degrees and enter the workforce. Artists, writers, and botanists, on the other hand, may spend a lot on a degree that they will never (or rarely) see a return on in terms of job stability and salary.

Of course, some degrees that have the potential to help you earn a lot of money may not come with an equal amount of opportunity. For example, there is a lot of money to be made in the film industry as a director or producer, but breaking into this line of work (or even working your way up) may be well nigh impossible. The point is, it’s not always about the degree. In some cases, being able to capitalize on a potentially high-earning position will have more to do with who you are and what your strengths are than the piece of paper you paid for so dearly. In short, your level of ambition and personal strengths could dictate whether or not you succeed in your chosen profession, so you can’t base earning potential solely on the value of a degree. If you go into computer graphics with a lot of talent for technology but no eye for artistry, you are not likely to excel in the graphic arts arena.

So are student loans worth the debt? The short answer is maybe. You are going to have to decide first if your chosen field has the potential (in terms of both earnings and job opportunities) to allow you to pay off the debts you incur on your path to a degree. Then you need to take a good long look at yourself and decide if you have the ambition to really compete for these jobs, as well as the skills necessary to advance. If you can answer all of these questions in the affirmative, then it is well worth the time and money to get the degree. If, on the other hand, repaying your debts is a dubious proposition at best, perhaps you should reconsider your career path (or at least how you’re going to navigate it).