Sure, your kid is going to rack up an enormous amount of debt in the next four years. But isn't that just the price your coed, or maybe you, has to pay for a good college education these days?
Not so, says Zac Bissonnette, a student at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, blogger and author of the recently published book Debt-Free U. Having a prestigious university's name on a diploma or sweat shirt will never outweigh the burden of student loans, he said.
"If you look at sending your kid to an expensive elite school in terms of an investment, it just doesn't make sense," said Bissonnette, who writes regularly for AOL Money & Finance. "It's simply an emotional appeal, and looking at the facts, you would never make a similar deal that involves taking a mortgage on your house."
Students weighing schools should be especially wary of college rankings and unreliable financial aid advice from guidance counselors and recruiters, Bissonnette says. Meanwhile, parents should consider whether loans are really necessary. One of the biggest myths about college performance, Bissonnette says, is that working to pay for school will hurt grades. A report in the Journal of Student Financial Aid shows that students who work one to 20 hours per week have a higher average GPA than students who don't work.
"The biggest complaint coming from employers is that recent college graduates in the work force are entitled, lack good communication skills and are looking for instant gratification," Bissonnette said. "There's no better way to disprove all of those things than to march into a job interview and say that you worked off your student expenses to graduate debt-free."
Worried that a part-time job might interfere with studying? The average full-time student at a four-year college hits the books only about 14 hours per week, according to recent research — down from 24 hours four decades ago, and less than half as much as universities claim to require.
The dramatic decline occurred for both students who worked and those who did not, and at four-year colleges of every type, degree structure and level of selectivity, said Philip Babcock, a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara, who conducted the study with Mindy Marks at the University of California, Riverside.