College Degree: A good investment or a waste of money?

According to a study by The Pew Research Center, 75 percent of Americans think college is no longer affordable.  Over the past 25 years, tuition costs have increased more than 400 percent; much higher than regular inflation.  A student pursuing a bachelor's degree at an in-state four year school and living on campus will need to budget more than $20,000 a year, according to  And, that number is expected to continue to increase. 


So the question becomes – Is it worth it?

There is no arguing the cost of a college education – it is an expensive investment.  However, a college degree is still a big incentive and should be carefully considered.  More than 60 percent of professional jobs in American require a degree.  According to the Census Bureau, the average salary for a 25 year old with a bachelor’s degree is $45,400, compared with $25,900 for a high school graduate.  Over an adult’s working life, someone with a B.A. earns an average of $2.1 million, compared with $1.2 million for high school graduates. Those with a master’s degree earned about $55,641 or $2.5 million over a lifetime. 

With the cost of education continuing to increase, it’s important for students to understand their options.  The following are a few important considerations when preparing to pay for college.   

Choose the right school.  According to a recent study by Princeton, there is a big misconception that a “good” school will earn a better return on your investment.  The study notes that for equally talented students, the choice of college does not award a long-term economic benefit. Ten to twenty years after graduation, the income level for a state university graduate is roughly equal to their Ivy League peers.

Look for scholarships. Scholarships are the best resources because essentially they offer free money.  There are several online sources to find great scholarships, such as FastWeb, FinAid, the College Board, and the Financial Aid Resource Center. These websites offer a variety of scholarships based on need, merit, academics, affiliations, and career aspirations.

Apply for federal grants. Grants are another great way to pay for college because it is also free money. To secure federal grants, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Finally, consider student loans as a last resort. If you take out a student loan, opt for a subsidized loan. The government pays the interest on these loans until after graduation or no longer in attendance.  For more information and resources regarding tuition cost and payment, visit

Tanisha (Warner) Smith is a former communications manager at MMI.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Financial Counseling Association of America Financial Counseling Association of America
    MMI is a proud member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), a national association representing financial counseling companies that provide consumer credit counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, bankruptcy counseling, debt management, and various financial education services.
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.9/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development - Equal Housing Opportunity Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.