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College Decisions and Future Finances

It’s that time of year again! Seniors in high school have to make the always exciting, sometimes confusing, particularly stressful, and inevitably impactful decision of where they will further their education (if they so choose). Millions of students apply for college each year, hoping to set out on a path to flourish in a career they are drawn to. Amidst this season of change, questions surface as to what the right decision is – is it worth enrolling in a college or university that will leave me in debt for years to come? Should I save money and start at a junior college close to home?

The average cost of a university in the United States is around $30,000 – this estimate factors in private schools as well as public in-state schools. $30,000 is a lot of money, especially for one person. Because of the daunting cost of higher education, many students drop out or pursue something else entirely, allowing them to save money. One great option to keep costs low (at least initially) is to enroll in a junior college. Smaller, cheaper, and not quite as prestigious, junior colleges offer General Education (GE) degrees which are required for all fields of study. While universities also give students the opportunity to complete their GEs, they cost much more in the long run. Some students view junior college as a bad thing, but ultimately it helps you keep costs low and sets you on the right course for your future.

Instead of going to a junior college, many students choose to enroll in a university directly out of high school. Universities house students from all over the country, which creates a unique culture that students come to accept as “home.” An experience much different than junior college, universities give students the chance to jump straight into their field of study while also completing their GEs. The downside? Universities cost thousands of dollars a semester. Students must consider if the cost is worth the four years of hard work, studying, relationships, and fun.

I’m currently experiencing the high volume of debt first-hand, as I look to pay off thousands of dollars in college loans. It’s far from fun, especially when you consider all the things you could be doing instead of watching half your paycheck disappear. With that being said, there are experiences, people, lessons, and learning that I would not have received in the same capacity had I walked down a different path. It’s true that I could have attended a more affordable university, but there’s no telling if that college experience would have shaped me into the person I am today.

My advice to you is this – don’t be afraid to owe money. You will most likely be in some form of debt, regardless of your socio-economic status, and that’s okay. Getting this education will open up jobs that pay well, so you won’t be in debt for the rest of time. The trick is knowing how to save your money, budget, and splurge every once in a while. If you or someone you know decides to start at a junior college, support them during this time as life transitions are a big deal. Remember this - there isn’t a wrong choice to be made when applying to colleges and accepting offers, but you will need to work hard no matter what you decide to do in life. Always give it your all.

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Rolling F Credit Union has been serving the Central Valley community since 1948, providing services in checking and savings accounts, loans, and online banking. Rolling F Credit Union is located at 2101 Geer Road, Suite #401 Turlock, CA 95382. To find out if you qualify to be a member, please call (209) 634-2911 or visit