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Male student with a confused look wondering if college is worth it.

With college costs continuing to rise at an alarming rate, and student loans ranked as a top debt category for Americans, “Is college worth it?” is an important question to ask. So how do you know if college is worth it – and right for you? Ask yourself these questions:

Do I need a certain type of degree to reach my career goals?

Healthcare, teaching, engineering – these are a few example of jobs that absolutely require a degree or certification to do the work. Research your desired career path to get a sense of whether a degree is a requirement.

Educational pathways include more than a 4-year bachelor’s degree or 2-year associate’s degree from a community college. Consider an apprenticeship, the military, or training program with an employer (like this Ag Tech/John Deere TECH program).

Also, once you have identified the education/training path needed, consider your options for the best fit – including cost. Here are 23-24 costs for all Nebraska colleges. It may be wise to choose a less expensive option.

What kind of lifestyle do I want to live?

Typically, the higher your education, the higher your earnings. A recent report from the Institution for Higher Education Policy had similar findings: “having a college degree leaves (graduates) better off financially in comparison to peers who did not pursue postsecondary education.”

Explore EducationQuest’s Reality Check tool, where you can discover which careers will allow you to afford your desired lifestyle.

How important is it to serve my community?

Gallup recently found that those with some type of formal education beyond high school were more likely to donate to a charity and volunteer in their community. Bonus: They also found that physical health improves as you gain advanced degrees. Those are some cool extra benefits!

What do other, wise people think?

The Chronicle of Higher Education asked Americans what they really think about higher education. 8 out of 10 people surveyed said their degree was worth it, and would encourage others to go.

On a personal level, a 4-year degree was the right path for me because it allowed me to have my current job (which I love!), earn a wage that meets all my needs (and a little more so I can have fun too) – and bonus: I met my husband at college. And I can’t think of a greater benefit than our children. College is so worth it!

By Kristin Ageton