Student loan

by Gerri Willis

Student loan debt topped credit card debt for the first time last year, and it's no wonder. College costs have skyrocketed over the last decade - rising an average of 6 percent each and every year. Today's college student can expect to still be paying down loans when THEIR kids go to college.

This is a financial disaster for the next generation. It's time that college freshman started weighing the costs of their degree against their earning power. I know so many young students who study journalism in a high tuition, high cost cities and then can't make ends meet on the salary of an entry-level reporter. Compare your likely starting salary from a website like www.salary.com with your monthly debt burden.

If you're going into a field that pays little like journalism or teaching, consider a four-year institution that doesn't charge premium prices. According to the College Board, public four-year colleges charge on average $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students, $11,990 for out-of- state students. Opt for the gilt-clad education and you'll pay $27,293 per year in tuition and fees! That out-of-state tuition is more than three times the level of in state.

At the end of the day, students have to weigh their wishes and wants - all of them - against the cost of education. Because if you pay too much - you'll end up shortchanging your future in other ways, such as delaying marriage, buying a house and having kids.