The Total Cost of an IT Education1 | 2 |
Kickin’ It in Boot Camp
Boot camps may appeal to someone who is exploring different IT career paths, since there is a small time investment and little time away from work. They offer the same value as standard technical training but in a compressed time frame. A standard technical training class is eight hours long; boot camps focus on immersion and often run 12 hours per day. They are generally held at hotels since the training day is so long.
Boot camps have a premium of $50-$200 per day for food, lodging and test vouchers. Airfare is not included in the cost, which often makes justifying a boot camp session harder than standard local training.
The real worth of an IT education isn’t just the cost of the education alone, but rather the cost of not getting one. Education is expensive, but no education is even more expensive.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average salary for a high school graduate in 2007 was $26,894. The median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree was nearly 75 percent more, at $46,805.
Geddy Lee from the rock band Rush drove the point home in his lyrics to the song “Freewill:” “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Choosing to not decide on a bachelor’s degree can equate to an average lifetime loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars — or more.
Now that the baseline is established, we can delve into the cost of actually getting an education. The primary education costs can be summarized as follows: lost potential income while in school; tuition and student loans; the cost of books; and room and board.
Let’s first examine the potential income a student might forgo while in school. The College Board compared salaries of people who went straight into the workforce after high school with those who decided to temporarily forgo a salary for an education. Those who chose to go for a two-year associate’s degree recouped their education investment along with their lost income in nine years. Bachelor’s degree holders earned back the investment in education and lost income in 14 years.
Now let’s turn our attention to tuition. As noted earlier, the “Trends in College Pricing” report found that 2007-08 tuition for an in-state student at a four-year public institution was $6,185, a 6.6 increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, tuition at a public two-year college increased 4.2 percent over the same time period, to $2,266.
Any tuition cost, increasing or not, is likely to become student loan debt. For example, according to a report commissioned by the California Research Bureau, the average debt of graduating seniors in California public four-year colleges was $17,200 in 2006, and nearly half of the graduates were in debt.
The good news is that financing an education just got less expensive. On July 1, 2008, the interest rate for Stafford Loans for undergraduate students dropped from 6.8 to 6 percent, with the promise of a 5.6 percent rate for the 2009-2010 year, 4.5 percent the following year and 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012. The rate will return to 6.8 percent for the 2012-2013 year. The maximums also jumped $2,000 for an undergraduate lifetime limit of $57,500.
When it comes to room and board, it seems both pillows and pizza cost about the same at two-year and four-year colleges. Room and board for a two-year college is $6,875 while the four-year equivalent is $7,419. The cost of books and supplies also shows the same minor variation. The annual cost of books and supplies at a public two-year college is $921, versus $988 at a public four-year college.
Looking to the Future
Choosing between formal college education and ad-hoc technical training is a highly personal choice, and it depends heavily on preferences and extenuating circumstances. But there is a clear opportunity cost for not getting an education.
Further, different ways of obtaining training don’t have to be mutually exclusive. After all, a combination will yield the most well-rounded results, and while it might be a hassle now, education pays off in the long run with a better salary, a better retirement and better benefits.
Shawn Conaway, VCP, MCSE, CCA, is president of NaSPA and editor of Virtualize! magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org | 2 |