Colleges aren’t generous with their financial aid anymore this year (if generous could ever be the word for it), families are less able to make up the difference, and students are lining up at student loan centers more than ever before for their full quota of student loan debt misery.
On average, students enrolled at public colleges end up borrowing something in the region of $20,000 a year, and their friends over at private colleges borrow about $25,000 each year. The government does realize that for what should be a basic right such as higher education, students are having to dig themselves into impossibly deep holes
A new law that passed less than a year ago, called the income-based repayment program, brings a little sanity into the picture, by letting people repay their student loans not in keeping with some standard monthly installment plan, but in conjunction with what they actually make working after they graduate from college.
How should students understand student loan debt? How much is too much? If you could go to a top-flight college, but you would have to carry twice as much student loan debt, should you just turn your back on it because you can’t afford it?
Some do believe this. They say that colleges can often claim to be much better than the competition, but really, what is it that they offer, they ask, for all the additional burden you carry to pay them? It would bring a little sense into the proceedings if a better school actually helped you land a job that should help with the additional student loan debt burden.
A much better way of addressing the situation would be to exhaust other financing options as far as they will go first. It might seem tempting to not skimp on your education as you can tell yourself that it is an investment in your future. However, most 17 or 18 year olds who sign up for college really have no idea what it is they will eventually be working at in life.
Could it really be a great investment, if two out of three times, students find they pick an unrelated career later on? It’s important to first find yourself, and bounce around working and saving, perhaps living with your parents, taking free courses at places like MIT’s Open Courseware, to see what it is you really want, before plunking down $100,000 of everyone’s hard earned cash, yours included.
Your college expenses may certainly be an investment in the future. But judging by the number of walking wounded with crushing student loan debt, doing without could be considered an investment in your future peace of mind just the same.
In fact, you could have it both ways – save on fees and expenses, and still not give up on going to that top-flight college. You could work harder to finish your degree sooner. There are many ways to do this.
First, you could supplement your college class hours with online classes or summer classes. If you go to a two-year college first, and then apply to be transferred to your dream college, that’ll save on paying the high costs of three years of regular college. You’ll be paying cheaper rates for two years, but you’ll end up with a degree from the college of your choice.
Keep your dream, and yet keep your sanity. Student loan debt, if you look at the record, is no longer a viable option.