How to determine whether a college is worth the debt?

<p>I'm applying to colleges this fall/winter, and I was just wondering: how should you make your decision on whether or not to accept a college if it's going to put you in debt? What I mean by this is how much debt is "acceptable", or how do you determine it?</p>

<p>I mean (just a hypothetical example), if a school like Carnegie Mellon accepted me, but by enrolling in the school, I would accumulate debt, how much debt would be acceptable to consider?</p>

<p>It's personal, just like some of us carry a huge amount of consumer debt and some don't. If I have to venture out with a rule, I'd say the total amount of student loan should not exceed 75% of the first entry level salary (ELS) job. I would definitely back off if said amount equals or exceeds the ELS. So, your intended career would/should play a big role in your consideration. Don't make rosy assumption, even if it's in the STEM fields.</p>

<p>PS - Just saw this thread started, worth to click once in a while ;) <a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/1189159-sharing-bad-college-decisions.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/1189159-sharing-bad-college-decisions.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I'd say the total amount of student loan should not exceed 75% of the first entry level salary (ELS) job.</p>

<p>that's a good rule of thumb. </p>

<p>I'd say that you should borrow 50% of your first ELS if you're going into a profession in a location with a HIGH cost of living and/or that often starts lowish in salary....such as art, music, teaching. (not always lowish, but often lowish).</p>

<p>If your first job will likely barely pay your living expenses, how will you pay back debt....especially substantial debt?</p>

<p>When you mention ELS, do you mean general statistics (otherwise I don't see how you can predict ahead of time your actual salary :) )?</p>

<p>I personally think it depends on your major and what you plan to do after college. If you go into IB, then paying of that debt wont be very hard. However if you social work, its going to be kinda challenging.</p>

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<p>A few schools survey their graduates in various majors about how much they are earning at their first jobs, or if they are unemployed, or in graduate school.</p>

<p><a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/internships-careers-employment/1121619-university-graduate-career-surveys.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/internships-careers-employment/1121619-university-graduate-career-surveys.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Be careful, though, since economic and industry cycles can have a big effect. Computer science is good now, but it was not in the early 2000s (tech bubble crash). Civil engineering was good in the mid 2000s (construction / real estate boom) but not in 2009 and 2010 (construction / real estate bubble crash). On the other hand, some majors seem to do poorly on the pay scale all the time (e.g. biology and humanities), so someone majoring in such a subject needs to be very careful about keeping debt low.</p>

<p>Many people believe the Stafford limits (<$30K) would be the max debt you should incur for college.</p>

<p>And it's a little hard to actually break into IB so you can't forecast getting a job in that field.</p>

<p>UCBalum is spot on. Talk to students, look at charts, see where everyone is going. If the college graduates chemical engineers and historians who end up working at Home Depot, it's probably not worth the money.</p>

<p>The only loans you can take on without a co-signer are the ones that you qualify for by filing the FAFSA. So for most students, this means that you are effectively limited to the Stafford Loan maximums of $5,500 Freshman, $6,500 Sophomore, $7,500 Junior and $7,500 Senior. If you are thinking of taking on more debt than that, you had better start lining up your co-signers now. Be sure that they are in a position to be able to continue to borrow each year, or you might have to leave the expensive school half-way through your program.</p>

<p>There are a bunch of nifty calculators at FinAid</a>! Financial Aid, College Scholarships and Student Loans that you can use to evaluate your financial aid packages, and to estimate how much money you will need to earn in order to pay down a given amount of debt. Run a couple of them using various scenarios, and see what you think. Here is my favorite calculator: FinAid</a> | Calculators | Award Letter Comparison Tool</p>

<p>Please remember that if you are good enough to get into Carnegie Mellon, chances are that you are good enough to get a whomping big scholarship somewhere else that could make your education possible without any debt whatsoever.</p>

<p>you can find a lot of information at this website: Project</a> on Student Debt: Home</p>

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Please remember that if you are good enough to get into Carnegie Mellon, chances are that you are good enough to get a whomping big scholarship somewhere else that could make your education possible without any debt whatsoever

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<p>Just so that the OP doesn't get confused, what she means is, instead of going to CMU, you could go to XYZ with a full ride scholarship, where XYZ is a school that is a notch or two or three below CMU. There are some threads about automatic scholarship, NMF scholarship etc. on CC that you can search for. My favorite story this year is a CC girl who turned down Harvard, Yale, Rice... for a full ride at Baylor U in Waco, TX.</p>

<p>Go to where ever you want to go. Stop asking other people to make important decisions for you. Be a grown up and make it yourself.</p>

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<p>Ummm, it looks like the OP wants more information to help make an informed decision. The opacity of admissions, costs / financial aid, and post-graduation outcomes at many universities means that 17 year old high school seniors (and their parents) making a large life decision often go into the decision making process without sufficient information to do more than guess and hope that they made the right decision.</p>