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There are hidden costs to going to college that people don't always think about.

Can you get your degree in four years?

Most of us assume that getting an undergraduate degree will take about four years but that is not always the case. Some schools, such as state schools, are less expensive but cannot ensure that you can get the classes you need to graduate in four years. Their programs or certain required classes may be over-crowded. It is not a bargain to go to a school that costs $25,000 a year when you must continue for additional quarters or semesters or even a year or two beyond what you expected. Their $100,000 has now become $125,000 or more! You can find out the percentages of people who graduate in four years for the colleges that interest you in various on-line databases and websites. 

Interestingly, often, though they can seem more expensive, private colleges tend to have higher four-year graduation percentages:

"Private schools do a better job, in general, with graduating students. The average 4-year graduation rate of our list of private schools was 59% while at publics it was 32%. Beyond that, the vast majority of those that do graduate from private schools do so in four years (over 80%), while almost half of graduating students at public schools take five or more. Arizona State University, the largest school in our list, graduates 57% of its students in 6 years according to 2011 U.S. Department of Education statistics. Of those that graduate, roughly 44% take longer than four years."

And you can check out this link for the fastest graduation rates of private schools.

Are there types of loans which are better than others?

Okay, this is going to get a little technical. in general, there are two types of educational loans: federal and private. Federal loans are funded by the federal government. Private loans may be funded by a bank, credit union, state agency, or a school. 

 Federal loans have fixed interest rates, income-based repayment plans, principal payments deferred until out of school, in some cases interest is forgiven while in school, and usually don’t require a cosigner. These advantages may not be available with private loans.

Federal loans may allow a portion of the loan to be forgiven--love that word, forgiven!-- if you work in public service, such as federal, state, or local government; a tax-exempt 501c3 organization, certain other non-profit organizations, the Peace Corp, or Americorp.

So remember:

  • Interest may be deferred, or not
  • Principal payments may start after getting out of college or immediately
  • Parents may be asked to co-sign
  • Many student loans cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy

More information on loans is at

Are the amounts of loans that you must take balanced with the value of the career you can have when you graduate?

If you want to be a pediatrician, you can make $175,000 a year. If you are a kindergarten teacher, you may make $40,000 a year. Depending on your income after you graduate, your undergraduate debt may be a lot or a little, proportionately. Make sense? And then, will you go to graduate school? Probably more debt. So, thinking about your career choices, think about how much you will make and consider the debt you will have to repay. (By the way, do what you love and you will be most successful and happiest, kindergarten teacher or pediatrician!)

Is going to school on the East Coast--so far! so cold!--a better choice than UH if you can get a fancy need-blind school to accept you?

The answer may be yes if your parents are actually quite strapped for cash. Why? UH costs less, but the full need school --that pays your entire demonstrated need despite their incredibly astronomical tuition--may actually cost least of all! (We know. It's crazy.)

The Bridge: Kaua'i to College 8/2016

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