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Special Report: Is college worth the cost?

Posted: 3:44 PM, Apr 26, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-26 16:44:45-04

It’s a bittersweet moment when your child finishes high school. After 18 years, they are about to leave the nest and begin a new chapter in their lives. Does that include college? If so, after four years and debt, will your child earn enough to pay back what they owe in loans? 

That was big concern for Graciela Rodriguez years ago, before she enrolled at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi (TAMUCC). 

"It was very stressful and very overwhelming," explained Rodriguez. 

But Rodriguez has reason to be proud; she’s one year shy of earning a finance degree at TAMUCC. She’ll also be the first person in her family to graduate college. 

"It’s a huge accomplishment for me and for my family," said Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez will also owe just a few thousand dollars in student loans once she graduates. 

"If I get the scholarships for next year or this fall then I’ll only be about $4,000 in debt." 

That number is far below the average debt for a college graduate in the US. 

"On average, about 70 percent of seniors [have] a student loan by the time they graduate. The average amount is about $37,000 dollars," said Dr. Jim Lee, Economics professor at TAMUCC. 

Even $37,000 seems like a bargain for TAMUCC Sophomore Larysa Galvan. 

"Right now, I owe $25,000 and I’m a sophomore," said Galvan. 

Galvan is majoring in biochemistry at TAMUCC and plans to attend pharmacy school after she graduates. She knows once she’s done with her education, she’ll have a mountain of debt. 

"[I’ll probably owe] $100-200,000." 

"We are looking at this…more like an investment rather than a problem," said Dr. Lee. 

Dr. Lee said the loan debt is worth it for students, since the unemployment rate for college graduates is 2.2 percent, compared to 4.4 percent for people with only high school diplomas. However, it also depends on the job; some careers pay more. The median household income in the US is a little more than $56,000. Accounting, a career that only requires a bachelor’s pays more than that. According to the US Labor Dept., the median annual salary for an accountant is $68,000– some accountants make as much as $120,000. Other careers like business and engineering have similar statistics. 

"Those are the degrees that tend to give you a career path pretty much by the time you get into that major," explained Dr. Lee. 

However, students are advised to cut costs wherever possible. Joseph Ruiz, Associate Director of Financial Aid at TAMUCC said students shouldn’t limit themselves to financial aid. 

"It’s important for them to apply early to apply to scholarships at the university and also private scholarships," said Ruiz. 

But, what if your child doesn’t want to go to college? There’s promising news on that front, too. Monika De La Garza, of Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend said trade jobs are a good option. 

"We have one employer that’s looking at hiring 200 welders. We have one employer that’s looking at process technicians. It’s highly skilled trades that are easily learned and the best part about this is we have financial assistance available for some of this training," said De La Garza. 

Entry-level work in fields such as plumbing and welding can start at $14 an hour— about double the $7.25 an hour minimum wage. .

You can start by uploading your resume, here:  https://workintexas.jobs/

Get more information on the Texas Workforce Commission, by visiting:  https://www.workforcesolutionscb.org/job-seekers/

As for Rodriguez, she has her eyes on the finish line and a plan to pay off her student loans. She will sell real estate and has started a t-shirt business. 

"[It’s Concrete Jungle]. I love it so much, and real estate seems very promising," said Rodriguez.