Many of us grew up in a world where attending college was the “holy grail” of life accomplishments. A four-year degree was said to be necessary to make any “real” money. Today the world seems to be short of trained workers to fill the jobs of computer technicians, software developers, Internet security experts, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and many other non-college-degree occupations. The social stigma that says certificate programs or community college programs don’t quite “get it,” is slowly giving way to a realization that college is not for everyone. That it is possible to succeed in the work world if a student completes certification or technical training programs and does not attend a traditional four-year college.
THE COST OF A COLLEGE EDUCATION
It’s an unfortunate fact that many high school graduates go to college even though they have no real idea what they plan to do with that education or how to make the entire four-year+ program work for them. Too many students take on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt for something they’re not completely committed to and end up dropping out and still having to pay off the debt. Those that stick through the college years often end up with $90K to $100K (and sometimes more) owed to banks and lending institutions. (Statistics show that more than half of all American students need to take out loans to pay for a college education.) Many students discover that the job market in their chosen field is weak and there are actually very few well-paying positions available to them.
REAL FACTS ABOUT COSTS
- 44.7 million Americans owe money for their college education.
- The student loan debt level in America grows by $2,858 every second.
- For those with an Associate’s Degree, the monthly payment amount on a federal student loan will be about $196.
- Monthly payment for a federal loan related to a Bachelor’s Degree is generally about $267.
- Those with federal student loans attached to a Master’s Degree can expect to pay an average of $567 a month until the loan is paid in full.
WHAT ABOUT THE STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS PROGRAM?
The full name of this program is actually The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. This program was originally designed to help Americans deal with education debt. The real problem with this program is that the program itself is “continuously failing applicants.” Recent statistics show that 97.6% of all applicants for the program were judged to be “ineligible” for assistance and were rejected.
The most important student loan fact to keep in mind when considering financing a college education with a federal loan is that it often takes 10 years or more to repay loans even as small as under $7,500. If your loan is as much as $60,000 (which is often common), your repayment period is likely to be 30 years. For loans in the middle of those two figures, ($7,500 to $60,000) the repayment period will likely be between 12 and 25 years.
IS IT OK TO NOT GO TO COLLEGE?
Authors Michael B. Horn and Bob Moesta, writing for Education Week, point out that a growing number of college graduates report that the “lifetime financial costs of their degree outweigh the benefits.” This is big statement, considering the fact that “about one-third of adults under age 30 have student loan debt.”
Horn and Moesta write that students who go to college for “external factors” (i.e., mom and dad expect me to go, I don’t know what else to do with my life, my friends are going, etc.) versus “internal goals” (i.e. goals related to a sense of purpose in life) are most often those who do not complete their college programs. (SOURCE: Not Every Student Should Go to College. And That’s OK (Opinion) (edweek.org)).
The fact is, despite a recent surge in popularity for career and technical education, the trend to recommend college attendance for all students has increased over the last generation. Rather than forcing college on all students, the K to 12 education system would be of better service to our children if they encouraged kids to consider more than one way to achieve a good life. And educators should accept the responsibility of helping students create those alternative achievement pathways and help them work to design and create those pathways rather than leaving the kids to simply follow background pressure to determine which life path they should take.
Education Week writers Horn and Moesta further warn that “All that college-going advice may do harm in ways most adults in the lives of teenagers hadn’t realized. Research we conducted over the past several years suggests that a ‘college for all’ message causes far too many students from all demographics to make choices that result in failure.”
So – if you’re wondering if there’s a way to succeed in life with a four-year college degree, remember this fact: there are many careers such as air-traffic controller, dental assistant, detective, and even teacher, that often provide the opportunity to train as you work and are being paid to become an expert. And some jobs don’t require degrees at all (i.e., entrepreneur, sports coach, stylist, etc.)
Too many students go to college without thinking through what they want out of the experience. They don’t understand what they want to get out of their education or how to make the entire experience work for them. Taking on debt based on this lack of appropriate focus is a highly risky thing to do, especially considering the high percentage of students who do not complete college and the grim student debt statistics (see above).
It might be hard for you to accept, but college might not be what your child needs. And that’s OK. Just because they don’t have a college diploma doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy an extraordinarily successful life.