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New Report Encourages Students To Consider Debt When Choosing a Major

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

Students in the Liberal Arts are all too familiar with the parental lecture that they should consider a degree that has more serious applications in the real world. Parents tend to look further into the long term and worry about the student loan debt their children will take on after they graduate. TG, a public, non-profit corporation, released a report for the Texas Legislature that emphasizes the need for students to also consider the full weight of the debt burden when choosing a major.

For the most part, students enrolled in the same institution will graduate owing about the same amount in loan debt. The amount owed may vary depending on the major, but the difference is only slight. The cost for higher education in Texas and across the country has been on the rise, which places a heavier burden on lower and middle income families that want to send their children to college.

TG was created by the Legislature back in 1979 and is responsible for administering federal loans. They are required to release biennial reports on matters concerning financial aid for college students that could help influence legislation in the upcoming legislative session. The latest report focused on the correlation between students’ choice in major and their ability to pay off their debt when they look to start a new career.

Jeff Webster, the assistant vice president of the research and analytical services department at TG, was clear that the report is not meant to dissuade students from picking majors that focus on the Liberal Arts or humanities.

We’re not saying don’t go into social work or theater arts or something like that. What we’re saying is: Make those decisions informed, and have a realistic expectation for what your earnings might be and how much debt you’re going to cover after you leave school.

Students are encouraged to go into whatever field they want to, but they need to know what pursuing their desired career will mean in terms of being able to pay off any loan debt. It is a tough economy with a slow-to-recover job market right now. The rise in higher education costs will make it even more difficult for students who to pay off their student loans after they graduate.

The report highlights the fact that Liberal Arts graduates tend to have a substantially higher debt-to-income ratio compared to individuals that graduate college with a bachelor's degree in engineering or computer sciences. Financial aid experts recommend people keep this ratio below fifteen percent. According to the report, the median ratio for those who major in the humanities is eighteen percent. The median for engineering grads is seven percent.

These are numbers students currently attending a 4-year institution or looking to start college soon need to be aware of. If a student is adamant about obtaining a major that will make it more difficult to pay off student loan debt later on then they should consider strategies on how to minimize their debt. Suggestions from TG include graduating as quickly as possible.

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