ROI Matters: What Is Your College Education Worth in the Marketplace?

Remember when your parents told you that college was the golden ticket to success, and that you HAD to go if you wanted to be successful? Remember how your parents also told you that it didn't matter how expensive any school was, and that you should attend whichever college you wanted without looking at money as an issue? Sallie Mae and her shark-minded friends heard their message, and capitalized on it by making the student loan system a trillion-dollar industry that has made more college graduates return to live at home with their parents than ever before.

Despite the myth that you will live the American dream by earning your diploma, there are tons of college graduates (yes, Ivy League alums too) across the country that can't find jobs. Because of this, it's important that you understand the value of your degree prior to attending college. The era of going to college just to go, or to pass time while you still figure what you want to do in life is in for a rude awakening.

Let's be honest here. With the capitalist society that we live in, the education system is completely economic. Tuition fees rise each year, and whether or not you actually graduate from college, you're going to leave campus with any debt you took out plus interest. What's more, you won't be able to file bankruptcy to get rid of the loans! Here are a few stats about the current cost of tuition in America's colleges and universities:

Understanding the costs of college:
- Average tuition for 2012-2013 year at a public institution: $22,261
- Average tuition for 2012-2013 year at a private institution: $43,289
- Total tuition for a 4-year degree program at a public institution excluding inflation: $89,044
- Total tuition for a 4-year degree program at a private institution excluding inflation: $173,156
- Average starting salary for college grads: $44,259
- Average student loan debt out of college: $26,000

Looking at these alarming numbers should make you seriously evaluate the return on investment from your future degree and university prior to enrollment. As a starting point, look up the average salary of college graduates who majored in your field of interest as well as the average salary of graduates from the university you're interested in attending. Decide on whether the benefits of attending a private university are really worth the extra money you'll be paying when you graduate. If you know you want to go to college but are unsure about the career path you'd like to take, have you considered spending the first two years at a community college to figure things out before heading to a major university? It might not give you the on-campus keg party thrills you're looking for, but this would be a wise investment of your time and money for decades to come. You're going to have to bite the bullet somewhere, choose wisely.