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Debt the Deciding Factor in Choosing a College

Topics: Current Events

Back in the day, when life wasn’t as ridiculously expensive, choosing a college meant considering the school’s student life, culture, reputation and academics. With the sharply rising cost of education, that choice has come down to cold hard cash. The biggest question in the minds of students: How much debt will I graduate with?

The Princeton Review released its 2013 “Hopes and Worries” survey, which asked 9,955 college applicants and 4,170 applicants’ parents from all 50 states about what weighs most on their mind when applying for school.

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“Some 39 percent, the plurality, said they were most concerned that their college degree and the associated bills not sink them into hopeless debt,” the Huffington Post writes. “Previously, students were more concerned that they couldn’t pay for their ‘dream schools.'”

Those dream schools topping the list for both parents and students, by the way, are Stanford and Harvard. 

The Princeton study shines light on the stress of a generation young adults coming of age in a world where even those with degrees have a tough time finding a job. As HuffPo remarks, it could hearken a turning point in the higher education market.

“While the news is unlikely to shake strategic thinking among the country’s top-tier institutions – currently enjoying record selectivity and runaway status in world reputation rankings – it could serve as a huge hint to universities seeking a competitive foothold in the higher education sector, particularly smaller private colleges and middling state public education systems,” HuffPo says.

That’s why more aspiring college students have been turning to PayScale’s College ROI report for guidance, to help them figure out how much debt is worth it for their chosen career.

(Engineering and research consistently offers the biggest pay-off, for the record).

Eighty-nine percent of students and 86 percent of parents in the survey agreed that financial aid would be “extremely or very important” to afford college. Roughly the same number of scholars and their parents said they expect the debt upon graduation to total more than $75,000.

Take a look below at the top three schools on our ranking, judged to give you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of how much graduates earn in their later careers compared to how much they paid for their education.

Tell Us What You Think

How concerned are you about the growing burden of student debt in the U.S.? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

More from PayScale

Behind the Scenes of the 2013 College ROI Report Methodology

Engineering Schools Top PayScale’s 2013 College ROI Report

Jennifer Wadsworth
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