the rising cost of tuition
, demand for a college education remains incredibly high. What's
changing, though, is the way that students and their parents
they'll go to get that education -- and that thought process has
some encouraging implications about what the future may
This month, The Motley Fool is reaching out to millions of
help guide them in their quest toward financial
knowledge and independence
. But while most people think of investing as buying stocks and
mutual funds, the biggest investment many people will ever make
is in their education. It's more important than ever to get your
Checking your wallet
Not so long ago, choosing a college was simple: Students would
apply to a host of schools and pick the best one that accepted
them. Schools with strong reputations and high prestige attracted
the most promising students, and competition remained fierce to
get coveted spots on the rolls of the best-known colleges and
universities in the nation.
But now, the reality of tough times has set in, and the
economics of deciding where to go to college have become a lot
more important. A brand-new study from the student loan division
) reveals several key elements of the college-decision
- More than four out of every five parents still believe
college is very important for their children's future.
- Parents are cost-conscious about college, however, with 86%
of those surveyed saying cost is an important part of deciding
where to attend.
after-college cost-benefit analysis
of higher education has also gotten a lot more attention.
Seventy percent of parents believe that earning potential is
more important than or as important as choosing a major.
Parents aren't the only ones paying attention to the payoffs
of a college education. Much of the scrutiny that
(Nasdaq: APOL) ,
(Nasdaq: COCO) , and other for-profit educational institutions
have gotten from the federal government in recent years has
centered on what happens to students after they finish their
course of study. When student-loan default rates are high and job
placement rates don't match up to students' expectations, it's
hard to defend against criticism that the value an educational
program provides doesn't add up to what it costs. And even if
for-profit schools have gotten the lion's share of bad press,
colleges and universities face the same questions, especially as
a tough economy reduces the number of opportunities waiting for
Marshaling all your resources
The encouraging result from the survey is that parents are more
aware of their financing options than ever. With Discover and
) offering a wide array of loan products with different
provisions and features, parents and students have to navigate a
complicated array of potential solutions that have huge financial
ramifications. With many students carrying five- or even
six-figure debt with uncertain prospects to repay it, the best
way to solve a potential problem is to attack it
you incur debt in the first place.
In addition, understanding financial aid options makes it much
easier for parents and students to compare offers among multiple
schools. Just as students fight to get into the best schools,
schools fight among themselves to grab up the best students.
Pitting schools against one another may have been unheard of
until recently, but now, it's a perfectly acceptable strategy to
try to eke out some extra incentives.
Be smart about education
A college education can be a vital part of putting together a
successful career. But you can't just pick a school, drift
through classes, and expect a perfect job to drop into your lap.
It takes work, and the more of that work you do up front in
picking the best school for
, the more likely it will prove to be the perfect fit.
Please stay tuned throughout the month for other informative
articles covering a wide range of important topics. Let me also
encourage you to take a look at the special website we've set up
at InvestBetterDay.com. On Sept. 25, we're taking a day to
celebrate the art of investing, and we encourage your
participation. Take a look at the site now and get on the path to
Tune in every Monday and Wednesday for Dan's columns on
retirement, investing, and personal finance. You can follow him
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger paid a lot of attention to
cost when he went to college. He owns warrants on Wells Fargo.
The Motley Fool owns shares of Citigroup and Wells Fargo. Motley
Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Wells
Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30
days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all
believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us
better investors. The Fool's disclosure policy is an education in
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