The average student debt has steadily increased every year since the 1990s—this year’s graduating class faces a staggering average of $27,000 of debt per student. Economic gurus nationwide are predicting a second financial crisis in the near future due to the burgeoning student debt. In this discussion, though, people are only talking about ways to pay off debt or avoid debt to begin with, rather than facing the real issue: Higher education is a privilege, not a right.
Most students who are in college should probably not be in college (or at least not studying what they are), and most colleges should probably not exist. This is a statement that will probably invoke the ire of students and parents nationwide, but this is what I believe to be the problem. The American psyche tells us that we can do whatever we want, succeed at it, we are entitled to it. But this is the attitude that led lenders to loan money to people to buy bigger houses and cars than they could not possibly afford. The last crisis was caused by our parents—this one will be our own fault, and will probably be far worse.
The last market crash left the economy in shambles, with bailouts occurring seemingly every other day. Graduates now face a weaker job market than ever before and have no means of paying off their enormous debt, with collections starting the day you finish school. This crisis will be felt on a more personal level, as college loans have a unique caveat — they never go away.
When homeowners and other borrowers defaulted on loans before, they filed for bankruptcy and the debt was resolved — causing a chain reaction with banks defaulting and the inevitable government bailout to follow. Student debt follows you, garnishing your wages until you pay it off. This causes a crisis that does not topple the government or large companies, but really causes us to suffer.
The Occupy protests last year are perhaps the best example of the inane American attitude of shifting the blame from ourselves to seemingly anyone else. They protested the banks, corporate America and the “1%.” No, it’s your own fault you’re a barista at Starbucks with $15,000 of student debt and a degree in Gender Studies.
Before coming to college, I ran a simple cost-benefit of attending each college I wanted and the degrees I pursued. That’s how I ended up at Tech, studying a subject I was at the time not the least bit interested in. But this choice allows me to graduate debt-free with a degree that almost guarantees me some sort of job after I finish. I did not follow my dream of attending a small-liberal arts school majoring in linguistics — and graduating with about $50,000 of debt.
But I was fortunate to be making these choices. A much harder question to face is if a person should even be attending college. You don’t need a degree to nanny those children or to wait those tables—jobs that you will inevitably get with a degree from some no- name school.
On the other hand, America needs, and sorely lacks, trade professionals, who can potentially make more money without a degree than I ever will. Trade schools and technical schools offer a high return and secure job placement for those willing to enter these fields. And they do not become a burden on the system, wasting their days “protesting” (aka whining); rather, they keep our infrastructure and financial institutions running for these others to pillage.
It’s sad to me that one of the most common arguments I hear for going to college is not about gaining knowledge or providing for you future. Instead most write it off for the experience. My answer to that is if you’re just here to meet friends (or worse, a spouse) or “find yourself,” do it with your own money and on your own time—or rather realize you are as these financial choices have the potential to follow you for the rest of your life.
While I personally do not believe in incurring debt, I fully understand that sometimes it is necessary; just make sure your degree is worth it. And if this makes you mad, I’m glad, as this is a discussion that seriously needs to be addressed in America. It also more than likely means you are one of these people and I don’t want to hear your whining on national news in five years about how you’re working a minimum wage job when you have a “good” degree from a “good” college.