Is the Degree Worth the Debt?

No one wants to be tied down by the shackles of debt. It’d be so much easier if we could pay for everything out of our pocket, especially college education. Unfortunately for single parents, getting through college without debt can seem almost impossible. It’s not just about the cost of college, but we have to factor in living expenses and time management.

So– is it worth taking out student loans to get a formal education? The answer is yes, but with some caveats. It depends on which career path you’re pursuing and what your goals are. There are important details you need to know about student loans before going down that road.

Some Numbers: Loans and Salaries

An important part of figuring out if a college education is right for you is whether the figures add up. Roughly 70 percent of college graduates have paid most, or all, of their tuition through student loans. The average amount of loans for a four-year degree comes to about $31,000 before interest, and this number grows by six percent each year. These figures look scary on the surface, and there is a reason to be concerned with racking up loans.

But, a closer look tells us these numbers aren’t that really bad. The median salary for the majority of career fields is $51,000. This is twice the amount a high-school degree earner makes. Devoting ten percent of a $51,000 salary to paying off loans, including interest, will take about ten years to complete. It’s likely that you’ll receive a promotion in your career during these ten years, which shortens the amount of time to pay off your loans.

 Which Degree Pays the Bills?

A big factor in choosing a field of study for a degree is making sure you can repay your student loans with the degree. Following your heart and your interests is vital to living a happy and healthy life, sure. But teaching yoga might not pay the bills. Picking a stable career that you find interesting can be an excellent choice while you find your true calling. Try to avoid career fields riding a bubble that may pop by the time you finish your education.

Some careers may have hidden benefits. For example, it’s no secret that education isn’t the highest paying field in most states– and some states have done away with automatic raises and tenure. Teachers also have to bear the cost of ongoing education. Small salary, long hours, and large debts to get there? Sounds like everything your parents told you not to do. However, teachers have some of the best repayment options. Spend enough time teaching and keeping on top of your student loan debt, and your loans could be forgiven entirely.

Repayment Plans

You can set your loan repayment plan based on your income. Having dependents helps. A teacher with four children my never have to send any cash in as payment on his or her loans under the income-based plan, but will still remain in good standing and have loans forgiven long before he or she could have paid them off.

Anyone working in public service has significant options for loan forgiveness. Some professions, like nursing and teaching, having specialized forgiveness plans on top of the public service plans.

Most Jobs Require Degrees, But Here’s Some Good News

The truth of the matter is that having a career usually requires earning a degree. Some careers–hair stylist or personal assistant come to mind–require minimal training, while others demand a minimum of a four-year degree. Look for a career field which offers to teach you on the job, or pays for training to meet industry standards.

The good news? Some companies like Starbucks, At &T, Verizon, Wells Fargo and Amazon pay money towards their employees’ tuition. Taking steps towards a larger goal is definitely a positive way to getting on a career path. Having some formal education is better than none, and in the long run, higher paying jobs are worth the investment.


So, what does all of this mean to you, Solo Nation? It does not mean that you should lower your aspirations and settle for a mediocre career. If you set your goals and standards to a high level then, by all means, do what you want to do. Take the time to make informed decisions about the career path you choose to follow. Look for industries with stability, high demand, high amounts of growth, or any combination of these factors, and go for it. We believe in you!



About author

Kathy Foust

Kathy Foust is a single mom, freelance writer and editor. Once upon a time--15 years ago-- she was a resident of a battered woman's shelter, working her way up, using available resources for survival. Thanks to hard work, grants, and scholarships, she now holds an M.Ed. and works from her (paid-off) home, which sits on 4 acres in the countryside.

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