Monday, April 13, 2015

How to Pay Cash for College - Lesson 4: Choose a Good Major

I wrote "How to Pay Cash for College" for April edition of Autumn Ridge Church Magazine. You can find the condensed version on the church website. They did a great job of publishing the article with pictures and graphics. I had to take out a few examples to fit their space requirements. This is the full article in its entirety. I'll split it over several posts to make for easier reading.  Thanks to Lisa for helping me write and edit this article.

Choose A Good Major

The end game of this very expensive investment is to get started on a bright future career. Ask the prospective college for the placement statistics and starting salaries for the major you are considering. Most of them will tell you right up front. If they don't, probe deeper until you get the answers you need.

We guided our students to skill building majors with marketable skills and well defined jobs. These would be things like teaching, nursing, accounting, engineering, finance, communications, and medicine. In the past, a general liberal arts degree was viewed by employers as a good set of basic skills for a new employee, This has changed, more recently employers are looking for specific skills and the person with a liberal arts degree is often at a disadvantage or underemployed. Keep in mind that you can always add a masters degree to a bachelors degree by taking evening classes if you want to get into counseling, business, or a ministry focus.

Many times these advanced course, will be paid for by an employer under their tuition reimbursement program. For example, I have a very expensive masters degree from Lehigh University that was paid for by my employer I would never have been able to afford this degree on my own and they paid my full salary for 18 months while I was in school.  It was very selective, they only sent 1-2 people out of 10,000 employees each year, but hey, someone had to be selected. This was way beyond the normal tuition reimbursement program.  If you can find a deal like this take it!

Many students would be better prepared for an enjoyable career, with a vocational-technology or a two year associates program. There are some great jobs in these fields. I've heard some employers prefer computer science majors with a two year certificate over those with a 4 year degree because the field is changing so quickly. Don't let the status symbol of a four year degree entice you into mountains of debt if a two year program would be adequate to jump start your career.


Brian and Lisa Petersen, lead the Financial Peace University course at Autumn Ridge Church. They just finished leading their 10th class, where over 400 people have been trained in the Biblical principles of money management. Each family situation is unique and they welcome your questions and dialog on this important topic.

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