3 tips for getting the most return on your college degree

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(BPT) - With the rising cost of education, you might be thinking, is college really worth the investment? If you’re heading to college soon and trying to figure out what your ideal degree will net you, here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Research majors and corresponding career opportunities

A recent study by the Federal Reserve analyzed college majors that offer the most earning potential after graduation. Chemical engineering, aerospace engineering and computer engineering topped the list of degrees with the highest salaries for college graduates. Others near the top of the list include pharmacy, computer science, business analytics and finance.

“When deciding on your college major, don’t solely focus on careers and salary. Take into consideration what you’re most passionate about,” said Brittany Mills, assistant manager of education lending at Navy Federal Credit Union. “Keep in mind that your interests may change throughout school, so be flexible and open to expanding the skills you want to build after graduation.”

Additionally, some lenders provide online job search training and resources as a student loan benefit.

“For example, all Navy Federal student loan borrowers have access to a Career Assistance Program, which allows them to search for jobs, get interviewing tips and assistance building a resume and much more,” said Mills.

Weigh benefits of the type of school and hybrid vs. in-person learning

The College Board reported that tuition and fees was $10,740 for in-state students at four-year public colleges, compared to $38,070 for students at four-year private colleges in the 2021-22 academic year.

By attending school in-state, you’ll save on transportation, as well as room and board if you live at home. But if you prefer to get the college experience away from home, an out-of-state college may be a good choice. Community colleges and trade schools also provide hands-on training and certificate programs for different skilled careers, if that’s of interest to you.

Many schools are now also offering the option to attend school virtually or a hybrid environment (combination of in-person and virtual learning). As these options can save you money on your overall education expenses, be sure to factor them into your decision. Make a list of pros and cons to determine which kind of school best fits your budget and lifestyle.

Explore financial aid to lower college costs

“Covering college looks very different for everyone, so take time to understand the types of financing in the market and how to apply for them,” said Mills.

Student loans are just one of several options to choose from when deciding how to pay for college.

Federal student loans are funded through the U.S. Department of Education and require you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Private student loans are available through a bank or credit union, and are based on your creditworthiness. Private loans can be a great tool to fulfill any unmet funding needs after you’ve received financial aid through federal loans, grants, scholarships or the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“We provide loans for a semester or the entire academic year up to the school-certified cost of attendance,” added Mills. “We also offer in-school repayment options and a 0.25% interest rate reduction for setting up automatic payments to help reduce overall loan costs.”

In the long run, exploring your passions and potential career possibilities will give you a solid plan for determining whether college is the best investment for you and your finances.

Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by NCUA.

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