The college route can be especially enticing to adult learners who are looking to expand their career opportunities. This makes sense, as data from the Center on Education and the Workforce shows:

Looking at the data, it’s easy to conclude that college is a necessary part of entering the workforce. However, it’s important to research the type of investment you will be making by pursuing a college degree, and whether this route is worth it.

In this article, we’ll discuss the cost of getting a bachelor’s degree by breaking down yearly cost, monthly cost, the debt you’ll be taking on, and your financing options. Our goal is to provide you with a clear understanding of the college route and help you determine if this is the right path for you.

Ready? Let’s get started.

What to Consider Before Applying to College

Before you make any move towards pursuing a college career, you must first consider a few things. For starters, you should know that certain academic and entry-level requirements must be met to apply to college:

These are basic requirements that most schools expect from prospective students. Additional requirements, however, will depend on the kind of major you’re looking to pursue. Some majors require a higher GPA or SAT score than others, which may limit your options when it’s time to pick a major.

More importantly, students must also consider their finances to find a college or university that meets their long-term academic, financial, and professional goals. Remember that no matter which education path you choose, you deserve a learning experience that helps you achieve your desired outcomes.

The financial aspects to consider include:

These are all important questions to ask yourself before applying for a college degree. Let’s break down the cost you could be taking on by choosing this learning path.

How Much Does a Bachelor’s Degree Cost?

The cost a bachelor’s degree will vary by person, as each prospective student has a unique financial situation. Nevertheless, recent data can give us an estimate of how much you might owe by the end of a 4-year college degree.

Average Cost Per Year

Recent data shows that the average cost of college per year is $35,720. This numbered has tripled in the past 20 years and is expected to continue growing, as it has a growth rate of 6.8%. This number varies depending on whether you go to a public or private university and whether you go to school in-state or out-of-state. Either way, an average of $35k is a high price to pay for many students.

Average Cost Per Month

The yearly average cost of $35,720 breaks down to $2,976 per month. Keep in mind, this number doesn’t necessarily include the cost of books, supplies, room and board, and regular living expenses. Depending on your situation, you might be looking at a much higher monthly cost for attending college.

This is why it’s so important to consider all aspects of college before making a leap. Will you get the return on investment you need and want for the work, effort, and money you invest?

Financing Options

Now that you know the average cost of getting a college education, let’s look at some of the options you have to help finance a bachelor’s degree. If you feel like college is a good fit for you, make sure to research each financing option and pick the one that suits your needs best.

Student Loans

The other option for students to finance their 4-year program is student loans. Students can choose between federal loans and private loans.

Federal student loans

Federal student loans are one of the many ways you can get financial aid to help fund your education. The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program is the student loan program offered by The U.S. Department of Education.

There are four types of federal student loans you can get:

Each type of loan comes with its own set of terms and conditions, so make sure you do a lot of research before making your final decision on which kind of federal loan to apply for.

Private Student Loans

Private loans are also a popular form of getting funding for your education. These loans are offered by private organizations, each one having its own set of requirements and conditions. Keep in mind that, usually, private student loans can have varied interest rates and may be limiting to some students.

Here are some common private loans you can apply for:

As with federal student loans, you should also do a lot of research when considering a private student loan. Weigh the pros and cons and determine which option fits your specific situation.

Scholarships and Grants

When it comes to funding your college education, student loans are not the only option. In fact, steep tuition and fees often lead students to consider state, national, or corporate scholarships. Some colleges and universities offer funding opportunities, such as in-state tuition benefits, waived tuition fees, etc.

These are some scholarship programs you might be interested in:

There are many more scholarships available to students seeking help to fund their education. Make sure to take time out to seek out the scholarships you qualify for and apply to each one if you feel college is right for you.

How to Apply for Scholarships

There is no one single way to apply for a scholarship, mainly because each scholarship program will have their own set of requirements and conditions. Some scholarships are merit-based, meaning you can earn them by meeting certain qualifications. Other scholarships are based on your level of financial necessity.

If you’re interested in learning about scholarships, seek out the help of an academic counselor or professional who can help you find the best scholarship options for you. Then, take your time filling out each application to ensure the likelihood of earning one or more scholarships to fund your college education.

What is the Average Student Debt for a Bachelor’s Degree?

Given the high cost of a college education, it’s no surprise that many students go into large sums of debt just to get their degrees. This is unfortunate, as college graduates will often find themselves in the difficult position of needing to get a job as quickly as possible just to cover their monthly student loan payments (on top of their regular living expenses).

Here’s how much debt you may incur by graduation.

Average Debt

There national average of student loan debt is $39,351. But the amount of student debt you incur by the end of your college degree will depend on the kind of student loan you chose.

For example, if you decided to go for a federal student loan, the average amount you might owe is $36, 510. This would break down to approximately $300 monthly payments over a span of 10 years.

Or you might instead opt for a private student loan, which can change the amount you owe at graduation. Either way, it’s clear that the high cost of getting a college education will impact your likelihood of going into student loan debt in order to get a bachelor’s degree.

Why Students Go Into Debt

Many college graduates go into debt just to get a bachelor’s degree. They work hard for 4 years to pursue a career that is financially stable and personally satisfying. The reality, however, is that college doesn’t guarantee anyone a job, much less a high-paying job.

So why do students go into debt?

The obvious reason is that college is far from affordable, and many students don’t come from a financial background that will allow them to cover the cost of pursuing a degree out of pocket.

The unspoken reason students go into debt, however, is that society places a pressure on students to go to college. No matter where this pressure comes from, it can lead students to believe that college is the only path to a high-paying career. This is simply not true and believing this myth can lead students to go into massive amounts of debt for a degree that doesn’t land them the job they want.

Which Learning Path Will You Choose?

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying that college is a bad learning pathway. Many students will find college to be an excellent opportunity to grow personally and expand their professional skillset. For many students, college is the best option that offers them the best results.

However, it must be stated that college is not the only option, nor is it the most affordable option.

If you’re looking for career-ready skills that will get you hired, you can consider the bootcamp path. Our online bootcamps give you the skills you need to launch the career you want. The best part? You can finish in 6 months or less and be ready for a new career in no time.

Whatever learning path you choose, remember that you deserve an education that gives you a return on your investment and helps you achieve your career goals.


Should I pursue a college degree?

The decision to pursue higher education is an important one that should not be taken lightly. For this reason, it wouldn’t be fair to make any single claim about whether someone should pursue college. What can be said, however, is that you should pursue a learning path that gives you the results you’re looking for and helps you succeed in your professional aspirations.

What’s the difference between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree?

There are two main differences between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. First, a bachelor’s degree usually offers a combination of general courses with major-specific courses, whereas a master’s degree is focused solely on your chosen area of study. Second, a bachelor’s degree is the first step in higher education, as most universities require a bachelor’s degree in order to get a master’s degree.

How is Thinkful different than college?

Thinkful is a vastly different learning experience than college. Not only are our curriculum’s focused on career-specific skills, but students can complete our programs in 6 months or less, compared to a college’s 4-year degree. We are also far more affordable than universities and offer flexible payment options to help fund your education. In addition, we offer our students a Tuition Refund Policy, which assures our students that they will pay nothing in tuition unless they’re hired within the first 6 months of graduating.

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