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Is college right for your child?

College is expensive, your child doesn't have a clue about a career path. Is it really worth it? Read on before you decide.

How to weigh the pros and cons

For some parents, sending a child to college may seem impossible or even ill-advised. College is expensive. The application process seems bewildering. Is it really worth it, especially if your child has no idea what career she wants?

A college education creates earning power

The resounding answer is yes. Research shows that people with college degrees have more job choices and earn more money. In fact, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, those with a bachelor's degree earn over 60 percent more on average than those with a high school diploma. Over a lifetime, the gap in earning potential between a high school diploma and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree (or higher) is more than $800,000.

College teaches essential thinking skills

Many jobs today depend on brain power, not muscle power. In fact, the government predicts that 18.7 million of the 18.9 million new jobs expected in the next decade will be in service industries-including professionals of all kinds-not manufacturing.

Today, 9 out of 10 people change jobs at least twice in a career, often switching to fields that are brand new. Technology advances so rapidly that it is difficult to predict what kinds of new opportunities will be available to your child. But a college education will provide the critical thinking and reasoning skills to succeed in an ever-changing world.

Colleges provide an opportunity for nearly everyone

All this doesn't mean college is right for your child. Ultimately, she will have to decide that for herself. But you can help her by understanding the choices. Here are misperceptions parents may have about college. College is too expensive.

Many people share this misperception. While college costs are rising, one survey found people overestimated tuition at public colleges by two to three times. Not only are colleges less expensive than most believe, there is more than $130 billion in financial aid available. About 6 in 10 students at four-year public schools get some type of aid, and since most financial aid is need-based, the more help you need, the more you're likely to get. You will need to look beyond the "sticker price" schools advertise and explore the aid options to determine what you will really pay. Given that your child will likely earn more with a college degree, you can consider this money an investment in her future.