I originally thought about writing two separate posts, but I found it easier to combine these two into one.
Some students live in cities containing many colleges and/or universities. Some of them are technical schools, offering diplomas, certificates, or Associate degrees. Some are four-year institutions. On the other hand, some students live in small towns and cities, and have no other option but to leave that area to attend a four-year college or university for their career goals. Still, there is the underlying need to choose the right school to attend, especially from a financial standpoint.
Careers like engineering, medicine, or even business require certain programs that may be only offered at a particular institution. But many liberal arts and sciences are offered at several institutions—both local and distant. Students should take time to evaluate what career they wish to pursue and find the least expensive way to do that. If a student is awarded scholarships, then the financial aspect looks easier to manage. But in regards to student loans, students must understand that majors such as Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, English, are structurally the same at any institution. Even areas of education and health professions carry similar curricula. Students must become certified, registered, and/or licensed after graduation regardless of which college they attend.
For example, an aspiring Biology major sees that two prospective colleges have that field of study. One institution costs three times as much as the other. Why pay three times as much for practically the same subject matter and curriculum? Unless a scholarship is awarded, that student may need loans to pay for school. Even if the cheaper school required the use of student loans, the amount is still three times less that what would be needed for the other school in the example.
Another thing students should seriously evaluate is the average salary of their career choices. If I wanted to become a teacher in elementary school, and I researched the salary range of new graduates, that may give me some indication of how much student loan money would be appropriate for obtaining that particular degree. If one’s starting yearly salary is $35,000, then paying $35,000 for college is not cool, and neither is repaying that much in student loans.
My advice: look at the median salary for your career choice. Look at the history of the career salaries and how much they have changed over time. It is rare that a new graduate will make far above the average salary, so be mindful of this when you are convincing yourself that you can easily pay back student loan amounts. Rent, utilities, and other bills may take precedent over student loans as they are essential for day-to-day living. But you also want to be able to save for retirement, for emergency, and enjoy some of your money. So limit what you owe.
I hope this helped you in your academic endeavors. God Bless.