College enrollment is falling.
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment dropped nearly 5% from 2021 to 2022. Some experts say the decline suggests students are questioning whether college is worth the cost.
Data from the College Board shows college costs jumped 25% from 2009 to 2019. So, how much should students expect to pay now? Experts say it depends.
“If you’re going to a public university in your state, they tend to be around $10-15,000 per year for tuition, but it’s not uncommon for private universities to be $30,000 or $40,000 a year," said Steve McLaughlin, Provost and executive VP for academic affairs at Georgia Tech. "And some of the schools are even more expensive.”
Those numbers, even on the smaller end, can be daunting to consider, especially for someone who’s just 17 or 18 years old.
So back to the question: Is college worth the cost?
“Return on investment is really really important," McLaughlin said. "A lot of our students earn degrees in engineering, in computer science and in business, where the starting salaries are quite high. Our average starting salary is — for students who graduate — $75,000 a year. That’s our average. And some majors are even significantly larger than that.” Universities are experiencing some challenges showing potential students the value of a degree or certificate. “When a high school student can graduate today and walk out of high school and potentially earn $20 an hour or more and then they wonder why they have to pay us $10,000 a year to get an education, that’s a reasonable question that we ought to be ready to answer," said Sonny Perdue, Chancellor at the University System of Georgia. "And the answer is yes you might do that today, but when you continue to do that job at some point your employer is going to say 'well, let’s see your diploma — I think I’d like to move you into management.'”The good news? There are options to reduce the cost of higher education. And it’s not just scholarships.“There are so many schools that are so generous," said Anna Pless Peel, director of college counseling at The New School. "Especially the more expensive they are. Sometimes they have more money, and they give more money. There are websites like FASFA and KPEX. You can go on there and look for scholarships. There are stories where kids have applied to so many and gotten enough to go, but it’s a very very small percentage. And that’s why when you’re looking at colleges, especially if you want to go out of state and not to a state school, you want to see do they have a large endowment. Do they have enough money to help you pay for college?"So, all in all, is a college degree still worth it? These collegiate experts all agreed that the short answer is yes. From networking to advancing more quickly in your career goals, the return on Investment is there.