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How To Calculate Your College Education Return On Investment

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With all the talk about changes to student loan repayment plans, popular student loan forgiveness programs potentially ending, and now limits on student loan borrowing, it’s essential that you fully understand what your college return on investment (ROI) is.

Going to college is an investment – just like buying stocks or investing in real estate. You are spending money (tuition, room, board, and more) with the goal of earning more money in the future – due to better paying jobs and opportunities.

And this has shown to be true for the last several decades according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Adults who complete a bachelors degree, on average, earn 57% more than those who are high school graduates. That’s a significant boost in earnings. But, if you spend too much to achieve it, it might not be worth it.

The Basic Math Of College Return On Investment

When you’re 17 or 18 years old, thinking about your lifetime return on investment of your college expenses is challenging. When you’re that age, it’s hard to even plan what classes to take, let alone your college major, future career, the implications of borrowing money to pay for school.

Luckily, we live in an era where there is more data than ever to help us make decisions.

To think about your return on investment, you want to look at what you spend – the cost of tuition, room, board, and more, and then compare it to what you have the potential to earn.

The Social Security Administration has some aggregate data on earnings that’s useful here. Controlling for various socio-demographic variables, men with bachelor’s degrees would earn $655,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates and women with a bachelor’s degrees would earn $450,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates.

Here’s the more interesting part – let’s take that lifetime earnings potential and discount it for the present day value. Applying a 4 percent annual real discount rate, the net present lifetime value at age 20 of a bachelor’s degree relative to a high school diploma is $260,000 for men and $180,000 for women. For those with a graduate degree, it is $400,000 for men and $310,000 for women.

So, adjusting for nothing else (such as career choice), men should never spend more than $260,000 for a bachelors degree, and women should never spend more than $180,000 for a bachelors degree.

The Advanced Math Of College ROI

Now that we have the basics, you can take some of that same math and apply it to your situation and see if you’re getting a potentially positive ROI or a negative ROI on your education costs.

You can look at your school’s cost of attendance (COA), which can typically be found on their financial aid webpage. Using that data, you can see the cost to attend four or five years.

Then, look at what you’d expect to earn over your lifetime. This can be a challenge, but tools like Glassdoor (which show salaries in various industries and jobs) or even government websites like Transparent California, where you can view ever Californian Public Worker’s salary. Using that data, you can see what you’d expect to make throughout your career, and add up your earning potential.

Once you do the math, you can see how the cost of your education stacks up for ROI.

Easy Rules Of Thumb To Remember

Doing the math can be challenging, but there are also some simple rules to remember when calculating your ROI.

First, while it may not seem like it, you can adjust your variables. You can attend a less expensive college (or do a path like community college first, then a state school). You can also earn more after graduation. Look at not just a career but adding in a side hustle as well. Maybe you are really passionate about a certain career, even though it doesn’t pay very well. You can still have a positive ROI, but you’ll earn that ROI with other jobs.

Second, borrowing to pay for school is expensive. It is a drag on your ROI due to the interest that will be accruing on your loans. And easy way to keep your ROI in balance with student loans is to never borrow more than you expect to earn in your first year after graduation. This is very career dependent, but it highlights how you can borrow more if you plan on going into a higher paying industry.

Finally, this math only includes high school versus bachelor degree. However, the same logic can apply to trade school or graduate school. You just need to get data around what you expect to make after graduation versus the cost of your education program.

There’s More Than Money When Going To College

Some will argue that there is more than a money ROI when it comes to higher education. And I’d be remiss to ignore that because it’s true. There is more to higher education than dollars in, dollars out.

Going to college has a variety of secondary benefits, such as a student moving out from home and learning how to handle communication, problem solving, and more. These real world skills are tough to put a monetary value on.

But, on the flip side, college is an expensive way to find yourself. While moving out of the house and having new experiences can be a very positive thing, it can easily become a future regret if the burden of student loans and poor financial choices weighs on you for a large portion of your life.

And my challenge would be, are there other ways to get these experiences while trying to build a positive ROI on education spending? My answer is yes.

Final Thoughts

Thinking about the ROI of your education spending can be a challenge. But it’s a must for every high schooler and parent.

Robert Farrington founded The College Investor, a personal finance website dedicated to helping people get out of student loan debt and start investing as early as possible.

I’m a personal finance expert that focuses on helping millennials get out of student loan debt and start investing for their future. I also help parents make smart choi…

Source: How To Calculate Your College Education Return On Investment

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Avoid These 10 Public Service Loan Forgiveness Mistakes – Zack Friedman

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It’s no secret that student loan forgiveness is a hot topic. When it comes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness, in particular, the requirements can be tricky.

That’s why it’s critical to ensure you know the details and are not headed down the wrong path.

Here are the 10 most common public service loan forgiveness mistakes to avoid at all costs.

1. Thinking Public Service Loan Forgiveness is automatic

Nope. Thinking that you work in “public service” and are performing a “public service” job won’t cut it.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is a federal program that forgives federal student loans for borrowers who are employed full-time (more than 30 hours per week) in an eligible federal, state or local public service job or 501(c)(3) non-profit job who make 120 eligible on-time payments.

Those “eligibility” requirements bring us to our second common mistake.

2. Not completing the Employment Certification Form

 The number one thing you can do to ensure you’re on track for public service loan forgiveness is to complete the Employment Certification Form.

The next question is: how often should I submit the employment certification form for public service loan forgiveness?

You should submit this form:

  • when you begin a job in public service
  • when you switch employers
  • annually

It’s important to submit this form annually to keep the U.S. Department of Education aware of your employment to ensure you’re on the right track.

3. Submitting an Employment Certification Form with errors

This sounds like a no-brainer, but your employment certification form could be rejected if there are errors.

Here are a few common mistakes:

  • information on one form that does not match previous forms
  • missing information such as an employer address
  • not completing all the required fields
  • correcting errors on the form, and then failing to place your initials next to the corrected errors

This all may sound bureaucratic, but better safe than sorry.

4. Not having your employment certification form signed by your employer

Your employment certification form must be signed by an authorized official at your employer.

Make sure it is that person who signs the form, not the person who sits next to you at work.

5. Not enrolling in an income-driven federal student loan repayment plan

To be eligible for public service loan forgiveness, you must be enrolled in an income-driven federal student loan repayment plan.

Remember, only federal student loans (not private student loans) are eligible for public service loan forgiveness). You also must make a majority of the 120 required payments while enrolled in a federal student loan repayment plan.

While the 10 Year Standard Repayment Plan qualifies for public service loan forgiveness, your federal student loans would be paid off after 10 years so there would be no more student loans to forgive.

How do you know which income-driven student loan repayment plan is best for you? Well, it depends on your specific financial situation.

This public service loan forgiveness calculator shows you which income-driven student loan repayment plan will maximize your student loan forgiveness.

6. Forgetting to consolidate your student loans, if necessary

Remember, only Direct student loans qualify for public service loan forgiveness.

So, if you have Perkins Loans, FFEL Loans or you borrowed student loans before 2011, you may need to consolidate these federal student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

How do you know if you have Direct student loans?

You can check at Federal Student Aid. If you don’t see the word “Direct” next to your student loans, then you may need to consolidate those student loans.

How do you consolidate those student loans?

If you decide to consolidate those student loans, you can do so through StudentLoans.gov.

7. Not taking advantage of Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Were you denied public service loan forgiveness because you were enrolled in the wrong student loan repayment plan?

Congress has set aside an extra $350 million of public service loan forgiveness for this exact situation.

8. Failing to re-certify your income each year

As the name suggests, your income-driven student loan repayment plan is based on your income.

As your income may change each year, the federal government wants to ensure that you are still eligible for that income-driven student loan repayment plan.

Therefore, make sure to re-certify your income each year at studentloans.gov. At the same time, you can submit your annual Employer Certification Form.

9. Skipping student loan payments

While your 120 student loan payments under public service loan forgiveness do not have to be consecutive, you need to submit each payment within 15 days of the due date for that payment to count.

10. Thinking your job is what qualifies you for public service loan forgiveness, when it’s your employer that matters

Remember, it’s your employer that matters, not your role.

If you work with a non-profit, but are employed by a private company, this would not qualify for public service loan forgiveness.

Now that you’re in the know, hopefully the path toward public service loan forgiveness will be smoother.

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