College is more affordable than you think

College is more affordable than you think

We’ve all heard the news stories of college students graduating with $100,000 in student loan debt. “How is that possible?” you may think, followed by “Can I really afford college?”

This fear is understandable, but according to one study, most college students don’t graduate with anywhere near this amount of debt. Released this month, the study reveals that these headline-grabbing examples are extreme cases. In fact, the report states, only 0.2% of undergraduate students finish college with $100,000 or more in student loan debt. Of those that do, the reason isn’t hard to find. Students with that much debt are much more likely to attend private colleges or the most selective public colleges, which tend to be more expensive.

So, if those are extreme cases, how much student loan debt can you expect to graduate with? According to the study, the average debt for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in 2011 was about $27,000. While this may sound like a lot, remember that it’s still lower than the average price of a new car. While you may enjoy a new vehicle for 10 years (at the most), why not pay a little less for an investment that will provide benefits for a lifetime?

That said, if you decide to borrow for college, doing so responsibly will help to keep your student loan debt under control. Keep your potential future income in mind when you sign on the dotted line (or, more likely, press a button on your computer screen) for your student loans. You can find information on most careers at the Occupational Outlook Handbook, including median income and predicted job growth prospects. You can see your debt in a realistic context by comparing your potential salary to the monthly student loan payments you’ll likely be making after you graduate. (You can use AIE’s College Loan Calculator to get an estimate of what this amount may be.)

You don’t have to give up on your college dreams because of cost. Just remember to make borrowing decisions with your eyes open.