If your family is gearing up to make a college decision in the coming months, a tour of prospective campuses may be on your agenda. Here are a few strategic tips to help you compare higher education choices and get the most from your visit.

Explore Your Tour Options Well in Advance
Every college and university is different, and so are their visitation opportunities. Are you looking for an on-site overnight stay or the ability to meet with certain professors or departments? Check with the admissions office of each campus to determine your options. Candid, face-to-face time with current students can also provide a valuable look into everyday collegiate life.

Budget Appropriately
Like any trip, you can expect to spend on travel and meals, even if the campus tours are available at no cost. From a budget perspective, treat a college visitation like a vacation; explore the city as well as the neighborhoods surrounding the school to get an authentic feel for the overall environment.

Gather Details to Review Later
You can maximize the experience by putting the technology you’ve got on hand to work for you. Use your smartphone to record interviews with current students and faculty and take snapshots or video footage to keep the visit fresh in your mind. Don’t let the excitement of an institution’s grandeur overshadow the importance of capturing the information that will factor into a final acceptance decision.

Higher education is a serious financial investment. Despite all the research you do online, nothing beats going to the source, so make those firsthand moments count.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

With higher education costs escalating faster than traditional inflation, it’s important to treat the college selection process as the serious investment it is. Whether you, your child, grandchild or other loved one is researching colleges and universities, calculating the actual value of higher education can help whittle down the options and justify the escalating costs. Here are three interesting metrics to consider:

  1. Total Debt at Graduation — Earning an undergraduate degree is a crucial milestone, but starting a new life chapter saddled with tremendous debt can disrupt that momentum. States and institutions can take different approaches to student loans, so pay attention to the student debt trends at each university or college to set realistic expectations.
  2. Alumni Earnings Above Expectations — While U.S. News & World Report provides a popular college ranking list each year, the minds behind The Economist created their version with a unique, finance-oriented premise. The magazine’s first-ever ranking of four-year, nonvocational colleges is based on how much money graduates earn compared to how much they could have made had they studied elsewhere.
  3. Highest 4-Year Graduation Rates — While overall graduation rates matter, the ideal situation is earning the degree in as little time as possible since college costs can skyrocket as more semesters are added. Looking at graduation rates for those who completed college in four years can help prospective students find campuses with similar work ethics.

College is a booming business, and it’s critical to consider the financial impact from a variety of angles, especially if your goal is to help yourself or someone else on the path to lasting success

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Significant student loan debt is certainly a growing trend. If you’re the parent of a child . . . you already know! Either you’re looking at the impending costs with concern, looking at the checking account and contemplating if you should take that elaborate vacation instead, or you’re counting what the costs were and hoping your child is making the educational investment worthwhile. Certainly, there are scholarships and grants; furthermore, we’d be the first to encourage students work, save, and help pay their own way. But, when it’s all said and done, parents usually end up helping and students usually end up finishing with some debt.

The Good

The good news is that most students who actually graduate are eventually finding decent employment. According to the New York Federal Reserve, persons with a bachelor’s between the ages of 22 and 27 have 4.6% unemployment. Now, we can argue about what the true unemployment figure is, however this 4.6% figure is at least in line with general unemployment currently reported.  Also, of note, is that both the average salary ($50,651) and the median salary ($43,000) are up in 2015 from previous years for Bachelorettes.

The Bad

That said, student debt is becoming a much bigger concern. There are over 40 million Americans who collectively owe over $1.2 Trillion in student debt. Furthermore, the variance from the average wage after graduation is significant with upper margins being held mostly by information technology, healthcare, finance, and engineering majors. The lowest paying majors are varied, but include sociology, theology, and education. Also to consider is work experience when graduating and where the student is willing to move for a job, which can also impact income greatly. The average student loan debt is also at a record high of over $37,000 with seven in ten graduates borrowing for their education, according to Cappex, a website that connects students to colleges and scholarships.

The Ugly

As if the bad, was not bad enough, we have the ugly. The ugly truth is that it’s not the graduates with student loan debt, which are the greatest concern. According to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Cappex, most graduates’ debt burdens are “manageable” meaning they can be paid off in 10 years. The bigger problem is non-graduates who take on the debt, but don’t earn the degree. Kantrowitz states, “We don’t have a student-loan problem so much as we have a graduation problem.” And to exemplify how this could impact all of us, Lori Harfenist of The Resident summarizes a Wall Street Journal article stating, “7 million Americans are flat-out refusing to pay back their student loans because they feel scammed by their universities and government.” And, who are all student loan programs now managed by? You guessed it, the federal government, which means the American taxpayer is the one on the hook. In conclusion Kantrowitz states, “ . . . if current trends continue, we may be in a crisis point in two decades from now.” We think it could be sooner than that.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.