Is borrowing money to attend college worth it? My answer? It depends. You should think about many factors when you make this decision, such as:
- whether borrowing money is necessary,
- whether your loans will be repaid by an employer,
- how soon your loans can be paid off, and
- how well your degree prepares you for the career you want.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Is borrowing money necessary?
First, borrowing money for college may be worth it if your limited means are keeping you from starting or continuing your education.
Of course, prior to making the decision to borrow money, you should explore other ways to fund your college education, including grants and scholarships and employer-funded training.
Will my employer help?
Second, if you are employed, you should also check with your employer to see if the business you work for will help pay for your education.
Employers can handle this differently, and some require a time commitment either through or after your college has been completed. Be sure to check the fine print before signing up!
Is additional training needed?
Third, you may want to borrow money for college if your finances prevent you from getting what you need from your education.
If, for instance, you need training offered only at a private institution for which you cannot secure enough scholarship funds, it may be wise to borrow in order to receive that training. Be careful, though, to distinguish between needs and wants.
Before borrowing money for this reason, be certain that you really need training in this field or from this institution.
How long will it take to pay off my loan?
Fourth, borrowing money for college is worth it if you are investing a future career that will enable you to quickly pay off your loans. Once more, you should be careful with this one. Make sure first that the career you’re studying for is what you really want to do.
Too often, students invest thousands in degrees they never fully use. Also, ensure that your job prospects for this career are strong. You may want to avoid borrowing on careers that are shrinking. You should also check to see whether the career you’re planning to enter will provide enough income to pay off your loans in a reasonable amount of time.
Do non-tangible benefits make a loan worthwhile?
Finally, you may wish to borrow money for college because of the non-financial benefits of a college education.
Although finances are an important consideration, money isn’t everything. A college education expands your knowledge, enhances your communication, improves your skills, and sharpens your thinking.
If these non-financial rewards of a college education are worth it to you, you may decide to get a loan even if the payoff prospects are not good.
With these caveats in mind, borrowing money for college may be a wise choice.
Unlike some other “investments,” such as sports cars or gaming systems, college is an investment that will keep paying you dividends for life.
And because a college education pays you back in many more ways than increased earning potential, getting a loan might just be one smart move.
Having been born abroad and raised in different cultures, Lyle Witt has enjoyed spending much of his career supporting international students. After earning a M.A. in Education from a state university, Lyle taught international students in college prep programs at a community college and university before joining the faculty at a regionally accredited college, where he serves as a division chair and assistant professor.
When he can, Lyle spends time reading, gardening, and disc golfing. He also enjoys camping, hiking, and mountain biking. While not teaching, he finds it a refreshing change to work with his hands, building decks, repairing houses, and fixing things.
Lyle is blessed to be a husband, father of two sons and two daughters, and a follower of Christ.