I get it. Student debt is going up. This, coupled with a job market that is still struggling, makes for a difficult financial picture for college graduates. Everyone seems to be asking Secretary of Education Arne Duncan how he is going to solve the problem of student debt. His answer is basically the same as many people’s relationship status on Facebook. Namely, “it’s complicated.” No kidding. I do have one question. Since when is this a new problem? I don’t like it when stories may cause people to question whether they should consider college. Not only does this impact my employment, but it also reflects a misunderstanding of history. College has been associated with debt for as long as I can remember, and history tells me it goes back much further than my memory.
Is this new?
According to the Huffington Post, the average college student graduates with $22,000 to $27,000 in debt. There are some students with six-figure debt, and that number is climbing. However, medical students and lawyers have been exiting college with massive debt for decades. Is this really about college debt, or is it about the job market? I can remember my fellow students graduating with heavy debt when I went to school many years ago. However, they had an easier time finding jobs. The sum of $22,000 doesn’t seem life threatening to me, though I suppose it is daunting when there is no job to help pay it down. I can’t control the cost of college, but I will eventually be impacted if students decide that higher education is not worth the investment.
The money has to come from somewhere
Everyone seems to want everyone else to pay the bill. Ultimately, the money has to come from somewhere. I pay taxes, which goes to fund state schools and also provide individual loans to students who attend those schools or other private institutions. As an educator, I am a big believer in the college education, and I think I will always believe in going to college. Granted, I understand the struggle and the sacrifice. There is ample data to show that college degrees enhance lifetime earning. However, I also believe in the college degree as a tool for developing an educated citizenry. Despite the financial challenges, I will encourage my children to pursue higher education, even if it means taking on some debt.
I want people to continue believing in the college degree, not just because I teach at the college level, but also because I believe in higher education. According to this survey, the percentage of adults who indicated their belief in the value of a college degree dropped from 81 percent to 57 percent in a four-year span from 2008-2012. I think it is unfair to make that just about colleges and how they conduct their business. When the job market is doing well, less people are concerned about college debt. I have a feeling that if the economy starts to pick up, some of these stories about student loan debt will go away.
College is expensive. When you provide institutions that include extensive facilities, highly trained personnel, and specialized services, there are going to be some costs. It would be great to come up with some solutions regarding student debt. However, I understand Duncan’s dilemma. Higher education isn’t free.
The author teaches at the college level and prior to entering the classroom he spent many years in higher education administration. On occasion he also enjoys the pure entertainment of substitute teaching at the high school and middle school levels.