Close to 20 million Americans attend college every year. Of that number, 60% or roughly 12 million of those college students, borrow money to attend. I was in this 60% and to this day still have a large monthly payment to good old Uncle Sam. Today, there are currently 37 million people with outstanding loan debt, I myself am included in this statistic. Of that number of people, there is somewhere in the neighborhood of $902 BILLION and $1 TRILLION dollars in total debt. So, that leaves me to beg the question, can anyone say what they’re doing professionally is a direct correlation to your college degree? Moreover, if per say you’re in the majority of people who accumulate mass amounts of debt via college loans…do you feel it was worth it?
The first job I had out of college was for better or worse, awarded to me because the COO of the company was my friend’s father. That’s not to say I didn’t deserve the job, didn’t have the qualifications necessary, or aced the interview with the hiring manager, it’s merely stating the obvious…I was afforded an opportunity because of somebody I knew, rather than perhaps WHAT I knew. The sad reality of employment outside of highly specialized fields is that it’s often a mere matter of whom you know, not what you know. Another issue is in the form of compensation. While tuition rises greatly every year, the entry-level jobs afforded to most of the graduates each year have remained pretty stagnant over the last 30 years.
There is a debt crisis hitting America and it’s quite staggering. It has nothing to do with the government potentially defaulting on their debt obligations once every 18 months but rather, an increasing number of young Americans crushed by massive debt loads from college. I along with many, experienced what amounted to the most amazing four years of my life during college. My university was amazing, the friends I made fantastic, but with an accumulated bill of around $100k it was certainly the most expensive party I’ve ever attended. While the experiences, both sober and non were some I’ll cherish forever, it really makes me wonder what exactly was the purpose of this expensive party. The more people I asked about their feelings on the subject the more I realized that the answer to my question can not be outlined in a single box.
“My career is directly related to my degree. I don’t have debt, but I’m 28 and can’t afford to move out of my parents house by myself. Is it worth it? I’m not sure. I help a lot of people but don’t know how much I’m helping myself!”
When you invest in a long-term solution, whether it’s stocks, bonds, or yourself, you equate that dollar figure to what the return on that investment will be. While it goes without saying that college graduates on average earn higher than those of say the same age with only a high school diploma, I must ask the question if this investment truly does pay? Considering by the time I’ve completed paying off my loans I’ll have incurred additional tens of thousands of dollars in interest charges, you begin to wonder if people like the quote above will ever be able to move out of their parents homes.
The job market sucks: Currently the unemployment rate is declining, but the percentage of college graduates able to actually obtain a job is low. Currently half of the 10.9 million unemployed workers in the U.S. are represented by college graduates. These numbers are alarming, these numbers are scary, and at the end of the day, it makes you really wonder if that $100k investment you made was a worthwhile one.
It’s true that for those people in specialized fields like healthcare, finance, and law all must obtain the necessary tutelage and degrees to practice in that arena. But for me, someone who’s working for an amazing company but doing something rather undegree-focused (made that up) it again begs to ask the question, is the debt load worth it? For the youth of America to come out of college already a slave to the dollar figures they have yet to even earn, does college as an institution make sense?
There’s no right answer here. There’s no wrong answer. I just feel its an important point to make the question be asked. From a quality of life, quality of financial health perspective, is college a worthwhile investment? For me, that answer is simple, and it’s unequivocally, No. While my four years at college were among the most meaningful of my life, the sheer burden brought upon its exorbitant cost to attend means I’ll be making a monthly payment for years to come. There has to be a better answer and a better way to “educate” the youth of America. Maybe it’s work-study programs in lieu of college, maybe it’s specialized schools more closely associated to how MBA programs work. I don’t have an answer. But the fact remains that each year, millions and millions of college graduates embark on a career simply to get even and that to me does not make sense.
The fact is that each year a new batch of financial slaves enter the work force. If you don’t come from a family with the means to afford college or are not in the small majority of students who qualify either for financial aid or athletic scholarships you’re going to spend the next 60 years of your life paying for school. For me, it appears that I mortgaged my future to attend school. I would have been better off attending a vocational school and learning a trade than accumulating $100k worth of debt. So where is the solution? What is the answer to the debt crisis effecting the youth of America?
I have a solution and perhaps it’s unrealistic but perhaps there’s a reason why it will never happen:
Maybe, instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars per year on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government makes an investment in its education system. I’m not saying these were unjust wars, I’m not arguing against our troops or anything like that. I’m a very realistic person who appreciates very dearly what our troops sacrifice for our freedoms on a daily basis. But by decreasing the amount of foreign aid and foreign defense spend, the government could provide necessary debt relief to its own people and could drastically impact the next wave of entrepreneurs and new thinkers in the country. It’s no surprise that in schools across America, students are performing significantly worse than those of their European counterparts. Perhaps it’s time some of that money trickled its way down to the people.
There seems to me, to be a system in place designed to keep the middle class where it is and designed to inhibit the ability of perceived growth. In an ever-expanding financial gap between the haves and have-nots, it would appear to me that some sort of compromise for the debt college graduates face each year could be found. Until people in our own government are willing to take a look at the problem and actually address it, I fear nothing will be accomplished. Until then, millions of college freshmen each year will mortgage their futures in the hopes of finding jobs four years down the line that just might not exist for them.