While it can be hard to determine that number, you can get a rough idea of what workers in various occupations earn from data on the Department of Labor website. Your choice of major also affects your eventual pay and how much debt you can expect to pay off after graduation, said Michael Itzkowitz, founder and president of the HEA Group, a consulting firm focused on college access and success.
Some majors are more likely to result in higher salaries, Mr. Itzkowitz said. The group published a spreadsheet on Thursday, based on April data from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, of the average salaries for the most popular majors, as well as the highest-paying majors, four years after graduation. The top salaries — $90,000 and higher — are concentrated in majors like petroleum or computer engineering, computer science and pharmacy, while salaries in fields like the fine arts, studio arts, dance and theater are in the low- to mid-$30,000 range.
“Everyone needs to consider the cost of attendance in addition to what their potential salary might be,” Mr. Itzkowitz said. “Can you recoup your costs within a reasonable amount of time?”
Here are some questions and answers about student loans:
Is there a limit to how much I can borrow for college?
For federal student loans, the limit for dependent students is generally $5,500 for the first year, $6,500 for the second year and $7,500 for the third and fourth years. The cumulative cap, which accounts for extra years if needed, is $31,000. (Borrowing limits are higher for independent and graduate students.) For PLUS loans, the limit is as high as the institution’s cost of attendance.
Are rates rising for private student loans?
Private student loans are offered by banks and lenders other than the federal government, and their rates, which vary by lender, have also been rising. The loans typically require a credit check, and only borrowers with top-notch credit get the lowest advertised rates. Private loans may also have variable interest rates, which means your monthly payment can increase over time as rates rise. Advocates for student borrowers urge caution with private loans because they tend to be more expensive and lack the protections of federal loans, like payment plans adjusted to your income and the right to temporarily suspend payment in the event of setbacks like a job loss or illness. Also, federal borrowers who work in certain government and nonprofit jobs may qualify to have their debt forgiven after a period of time.