What’s the real cost of tuition?

A college degree isn’t getting any cheaper. And neither is the price of food, medical expenses or just about anything else. The price of tuition is actually increasing four times faster than the consumer price index. Yikes.

If you or your kid are thinking about what’s next in life and feel college might be an option, it’s more important than ever to think critically about what career you want and the smartest way to get it.

The debt being created by tuition prices is a nationwide problem dwarfing that of credit card debt. More than 70 percent of students are graduating with an average of $33,000 in student loans, according to Edvisors.

So what’s the real cost of tuition? Depends who you ask.

A college degree has been valued somewhere between $185,000 (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) to $1,000,000 (U.S. Census Bureau) over a lifetime. However, those figures were calculated based on the economic conditions of past generations. College graduates today probably won’t enjoy the same return on investment.

Some sources claim a degree may even lose the graduate money over the course of a lifetime. As a result of a student loan debt, many degree holders will spend years attempting to pay off debt rather than save and build equity. Be careful about the debt you take on.

Think hard about the career you want – a degree may not be required. Debt can be kept low by attending community college first and avoiding private schools. Talk with parents, friends or trusted adults about options to keep debt low. Whether that means a part-time job or working summers, avoiding student loans wherever you can is a safe way to avoid long-term debt.

College enrollment has decreased for the last three years straight. And while this may eventually mean lower tuition, being smart about the debt you take on to get that degree may save a lot down the road.

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