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Is Getting a Higher Degree Worth It?

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Is Getting a Higher Degree Worth It?

Passion is important, but we shouldn’t be solely guided by it when making financial decisions.


Since 2004, the total student loan debt in the U.S. has on average increased by $80 billion each year. In 2018, student loan debt hit $1.5 trillion. With 44.7 million borrowers, the current average debt per borrower is $32,731.  

Tuition and fees continue to skyrocket at a rate faster than inflation. Despite soaring costs, many are still pursuing higher education for a span of reasons: career preparation, job security, personal development, earning potential, etc. Higher education can certainly open minds and doors, but there are many factors to consider before borrowing an astronomical amount of money to finance it.  

Student loans to fund higher education can be a worthwhile investment to make yourself more marketable, but it is a decision that should never be taken lightly, especially now that trends indicate that nearly 40% of borrowers may default on their loans by 2023.  

Let’s look at a breakdown of average debt acquired by students who pursue the following degrees:    

  • Medical School (MD): $191,200 

  • Law School (JD): $139,000 

  • Master of Business Administration: $89,900 

  • Master of Science or Engineering: $65,100 

  • Master of Arts: $62,800  

Note, these numbers include debt acquired from both undergraduate and graduate studies.   

These figures may seem frightening, but awareness of them should lead you to these two important questions that need to be answered honestly before signing the dotted line for the loan: 

  1. What is more valuable in the field you are pursuing – experience or education? What is influencing your choice of college – reputation or cost?  

  1. Most importantly, what is your earning potential post-graduation? Based on your earning potential, will you realistically be able to pay off your loans? How difficult will it be to land a job? What’s the return on your investment in education? 

To put it into perspective, let’s just say you graduated with a total student loan balance of $100,000 with an interest rate of 6%. If you paid $1,000 per month, it will take you 11.7 years just to pay it off plus a total interest of $38,279. Your $100,000 education just became $138,279 in total cost.  

So how much will you need to make in gross income to sustain that rate of loan repayment consistently? $130,000 gross! 

If you’re considering a higher degree, would you be able to get a job that pays you $130,000 right out of school with that level of debt?

A higher degree does not guarantee higher wages.

The Bottom Line: 

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Even with scholarships and grants available, student loans are often necessary to fund higher education and lifestyle costs while in school. However, taking out a loan is a serious financial commitment -- one that many blindly walk into without serious consideration of the potential long-term impact. Don’t let statistics discourage you from fulfilling your dreams, but rather let them encourage you to make well-informed financial decisions.  

As the saying goes: Follow your heart but take your brain with you.


Start building the life you’ve always wanted.


This data is for informational purposes only and Capital Benchmark Partners, LLC ("CBP") is not affiliated with any of the businesses mentioned nor endorses them. CBP is not endorsed by any third party entities for their inclusion in this article nor is compensated for mentioning them. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but the accuracy of the information cannot be guaranteed.

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