You're living on the wrong side of the country:
Averages in the beltway
Digital Forensic Analyst With Security Clearance in McLean, VA (average salary $104,000
)http://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Digital- ... n,-VA.html
Forensic Clearance in McLean, VA ($98,000
)http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=Forensi ... Lean%2C+VA
Forensic Engineer With Security Clearance in Fort Bragg, NC $81,000http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=Forensi ... ragg%2C+NC
Senior Digital Forensic Analyst With Security Clearance in McLean, VA $92,000
Low Confidence (less than 75 sources)http://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Senior-D ... n,-VA.html
So here is the reality of it whether some choose to ignore or realize this... A BA in CompSci is not all that it is cracked up to be. In 1999 (over 10 years ago!!!) I had just broke 100k without the degree, without any certifications at all. Granted it was the dotcom daze, the money was around then and it still is around now.
The issue with trying to learn most of the useful security groundwork is, it changes daily, There will be no college capable of supporting this. So programs/curricula needs to change rapidly otherwise what you learned at the beginning of your freshmen year is worthless. Same goes for certain certain certs. While I have never been a fan of SANS, I do respect the fact that their course content remains fresh. This is more worthwhile in the long run when you hit the real world.
College vs. say SANS cert route:Learning
College - find a good school, hope your tuition isn't sky high. Learn decades old frameworks and theories.
SANS - two solid years in either a red or blue route. Learning cutting edge concepts and techniques that are applied in the real world.Benefits
College - parties, parties, dorms, parties
SANS - network with people in the industry. Get to see what others do, where others work.Costs
College - depends on the school. Let's average this to 4k per semester
SANS - depends on what you do... We can average this to say 3-4k per course
At the end of it all, which candidate do you think would have the upper hand here? The college graduate or the SANS student? I know people who've slept their way through college. I highly doubt you will find the same when it comes to someone who is SANS certified. Anyway, back to topic... I suggest you look outside of your state if money is your theme. Your area seems to be lacking on the payscale. 'Round these parts (metro Tri-State: NY, NJ, CT) we start at about 75k for intro security jobs.