With the cost of college being one of the biggest expenses in life, it's no wonder that so many students borrow money to pay for their education. Reports consistently show that the payoff, over the course of one's life, makes the degree a very worthwhile investment. If we accept that the importance of graduating can't be overstated, we then come to questions about how to pay for it. Obviously, scholarships, grants and funds from parents or relatives that don't need to be paid back are the first choice. But for most of us, work, savings and borrowing are the most feasible methods of paying for your education. (Find out which savings vehicles may be better than college saving funds for some families in Pay For A College Education With Retirement Funds.)

What Impact Will the Earnings Have?
If you are headed to an private school with the potential of a graduate degree to follow, the cost is going to be significant. So, adding four hours a week washing dishes probably won't have much impact on your financial situation. On the other hand, if you are headed to state college, and can land a gig as waiter at a high-end restaurant four nights a week raking in some serious money and eating tasty grub, then the impact will be worth it, even if it extends your academic life by a year or so.

Can You Pay it Back?
If the education you're getting is in a high demand profession at a prestigious school, your job prospects should be pretty good, even in a poor economic environment. Therefore, you'll have a good opportunity to pay back the loans in a reasonable amount of time. But far too often, a degree doesn't mean a top-tier job offer right out of the gates. It may still pay off, but job prospects for those with little experience and degrees in less popular areas of study need to be far more careful about taking on debt. (Keep the debt zombies from eating you alive; read Dawn Of The Zombie Debt.)

Where can You Work?
The best use of your time is to find a job doing work related to what you want to do upon graduation. For example, lawyers often clerk for a judge or do tasks in law offices while they go to school. If you don't know what you want to do and there aren't any decent job prospects, you might be better off borrowing more, loading up on the classes and graduating early.

Also, consider the social aspect of your education. College has an awesome networking potential and the contacts you make there will often follow you for your entire career. Don't spend time at a dead-end, low-wage job when you could be working on the college newspaper or helping a professor conduct research.

There is no easy answer here, and every situation will differ, depending on the specific factors involved. What you don't want to do is pile up debt while you figure out what you want to do. Because once you figure it out, the debt burden may be so heavy that it crushes you dreams.

Borrow wisely - you'll eventually have to pay it back. (Find out how to save thousands of dollars on tuition with the tricks and little-known programs in Pay For College Without Selling A Kidney.)

Related Articles
  1. Professionals

    Is A Stockbroker Career For You?

    Becoming a stockbroker requires a broad skill set and the willingness to put in long hours. But the rewards can be enormous.
  2. Investing

    7 Creative Ways to Save for an Early Retirement

    Take note of these out of the box steps you can take towards securing yourself an earlier, more comfortable retirement.
  3. Retirement

    Birch Box Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn more about the convenience of the subscription beauty box industry, and discover why the Birchbox company in particular has become so popular.
  4. Investing Basics

    How to Become A Self-Taught Financial Expert

    Becoming a self-taught financial expert may not be as daunting of a task as it seems.
  5. Personal Finance

    University Donations: Which Schools Got the Most

    A closer look at the staggering $40.3 billion donated to colleges and universities in 2015.
  6. Personal Wealth & Private Banking

    Women, Invest In Your Financial Literacy

    Becoming financially literate should be on the to-do list of anyone who is not.
  7. Savings

    How to Save Your First $100,000

    Saving your first $100,000 requires the discipline to put money away and control your spending. But just remember – the savings get bigger as you go.
  8. Retirement

    3 Reasons Why This Is the Perfect Time To Visit Greece

    Discover three reasons why now is the best time to visit Greece, including the favorable exchange rate and the country's unrivaled hospitality.
  9. Home & Auto

    What are The Best Ways to Save on Moving Costs?

    Because buying a house isn’t cheap, funds might be limited during your move. So, to avoid additional stress, here are seven money saving tips.
  10. Budgeting

    How Much Rent Can You Afford on $50K a Year?

    Before you go apartment hunting, spend some time calculating a price range that works for you. Here's how.
  1. What's the difference between microeconomics and macroeconomics?

    Microeconomics is generally the study of individuals and business decisions, macroeconomics looks at higher up country and ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What’s the difference between the two federal student loan programs (FFEL and Direct)?

    The short answer is that one loan program still exists (Federal Direct Loans) and one was ended by the Health Care and Education ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Can I use my 401(k) to pay for my college loans?

    If you are over 59.5, or separate from your plan-sponsoring employer after age 55, you are free to use your 401(k) to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
Trading Center