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Heaton: How to Avoid Overpaying for a College Degree in 3 Easy Steps

Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Communications
Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Communications

Before we begin, consider these facts:

  • There are 2,400 undergraduate programs — you can’t look at them all.
  • Tuition inflation means that the risk in overpaying for a bachelor’s degree is very high.
  • The average graduate will leave school with a debt of $30K and will take-home $36K a year.

Step One: Find the best values.
Southern college graduates have an average debt load that is approximately $7K less than the rest of the country (ie. $23K). Here is the Kiplinger’s list of best value schools in the South, ranked for both in-state and out-of-state costs.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.57.15 AM

Step Two: Go beyond numerical college rankings.
How could could it be meaningful to rank 2,400 schools? Just as in D1 football, after the top 25 there is no real difference – at least it’s not a difference worth paying up for. However, there is one important factor that will help graduates become more successful and that is a strong alumni network. A service called The Alumni Factor quantifies the strength of alumni networks. Of the schools on Kiplinger’s value list, these schools also have top ranked alumni networks according to The Alumni Factor:

  • Florida International University
  • Florida State University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • James Madison University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Step Three: Apply.
Don’t stress on price alone. Only about 1/3 of students pay the full sticker price. Your guidance councilor is probably aware of schools that are making deals for students in your area.

Good luck!

By the way, I know personally how strong Ole Miss’s alumni network is, I both benefit from it and contribute to it! Look for jobs postings and other career info on the Ole Miss Linkedin groups.


1017122_10152001225873026_938751693_nTim Heaton is a HottyToddy.com contributor and can be reached at tim.h.heaton@gmail.com. His new book, “Momma n’ Em Said: The Treasury of Southern Sayings” is available on Amazon.

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