EUGENE, Ore. - Vladimir Panchenko is working to pay off his degree.
"I saved up. I didn't really get any scholarships, so I just knew I had to work and pay my way through," he said. "I have a bunch of friends who will be in debt for like 6 or 7 years after they graduate, and I knew for a fact that I don't want to do that."
An Oregon resident graduating from the University of Oregon will have spent over $28,000 just on tuition and fees, said Phil Weiler, a spokesperson for the University of Oregon. He said the average college student graduates with almost $21,000 in debt.
"I think college students across the county are assuming more debt than they have in years past," Weiler said, "and that's a concern for everybody that's involved in higher education."
"It's really stressful, especially balancing work and school to try to pay off your loans," said Ashlyn Brand, a senior human physiology major at UO.
So is it worth it?
"Not having a college education - anymore in the United States being a knowledge economy, we're moving away from manufacturing, it's pretty difficult not to have a college education," said financial advisor Jenny Hector. "Not having a college degree, those are the people that are the first ones let go when there's a downturn, and they're the last ones hired."
The average American high school graduate earns a little over $31,200 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The average college graduate with a bachelor's degree earns $58,600.
Over your working life, the difference could be $1 million.
"In the past," UO"s Weiler said, "having a high school education allowed you to be able to go into the manufacturing sector, and you could raise a family be very successful and be very happy. Those jobs don't exist anymore."
But industry experts say a degree doesn't guarantee success. Some fields are already saturated with over qualified people.
"If there are just lots and lots of people have taken that degree option and there are lots of them out there looking for work," said Will Summers with the Employment Department, "then you're not going to have much success getting a job that pays well."