The Best Investment
As a student at CU Boulder in the early 1960s, when costs were far lower than today, I financed my education by working on and off campus during school and over breaks to augment my family’s small contribution. It’s rare for today’s students to be able to do what I did.
Loans are common now and student debt is an issue. Yet it’s important to consider loans as an investment rather than just a cost. CU is focusing on educating our students about debt and ensuring they have tools to help them understand and manage it.
At CU Boulder, some 58 percent of bachelor’s recipients graduated with debt in 2015. The average debt load was $26,519, below the national average of $28,100. Our graduates’ loan default rate was 2.7 percent; the national average was 11.8 percent. This tells me our graduates are getting jobs and paying off their loans.
We are educating students about debt and finances. Before prospective students even arrive, we engage them with tools like our Aid Estimator, which projects the cost of education. For current students, the Council of Graduate Schools and TIAA funded an initiative to enhance their financial literacy. Several campus offices are collaborating on a program where students create financial plans to determine what type of financial information they need. We identify at-risk borrowers and tailor programs and outreach to assist them.
Declines in state funding increase costs to students, so we continue to work to keep a CU education affordable by finding efficiencies, instituting better business practices and trimming bureaucracy. We realized some $32 million in savings and cost avoidance last year and $40 million the previous year.
A college education is perhaps the best investment a person can make, paying financial and other dividends for decades. Most estimates show a bachelor's degree is worth $1 million or more over a wage-earning life. College graduates also tend to be happier, healthier and participate more in community and civic life. Loans are an unfortunate part of financing college for many, but for an investment that is less than the cost of most new cars, graduates reap a lifetime of benefits.
Illustration by Melinda Josie