How to Get the Highest Return on Your College Investment

Not all colleges and universities provide the same outcomes after graduation. Making smart choices about your education can increase job prospects after school and lead to higher lifetime wages. With a higher number of college graduates competing for each job opening and debt levels hitting new highs, consider the following to make the most of your investment.

What is the total cost of attendance? The price to attend college includes tuition, room, and board, fees, and books for four or more years. Auxiliary costs beyond tuition can more than double the cost of obtaining a degree. Carefully review the financial aid package from each school considered and financial assistance available beyond the first year. The cost of living in the college town may also vary widely from current prices. Beginning at a community college, living at home, or attending an in-state school can all keep the cost of attendance in check.

How much money will you borrow to pay for school? Student loan debt is reaching crisis levels. Only borrowing what you need is the best way to reduce long-term costs. Other ways to keep loan balances low can include working part-time during the school year, full-time summer employment, and keeping your degree on track for a four-year graduation.

Compare the chosen major with lifetime earning potential. Consider your strengths but also review the job opportunities each possible degree offers. Higher paying majors may warrant a specialty or private school that comes with higher costs, but also higher incomes after graduation. Lower wage majors often offer similar pay scales regardless of school, allowing you to attend a lower cost school without impacting employment prospects.

The decisions you make about which school to attend and what major to pursue will largely determine the job prospects and income expectations after graduation.