Is college worth the debt?

Posted September 20, 2012 at 11:17 am

BABBLING BROOKS column–Express Editor Kim Brooks

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the newest issue of Newsweek magazine! The cover shows students walking around a college campus with the question “Is College a Lousy Investment?”

Well that caught my eye!

Without disclosing my mountain of college loan debt to our readers, let’s just say college loans suck! Plain and simple.

Accompanying this five-page article inside Newsweek was a photo of five college graduates holding up signs with insane amounts of money on them: $100,000. $75,000 and $25,000. These figures show just how much debt college students can accumulate through student loans.

Now don’t get me wrong, student loans are great. They made it possible for my younger sister and me to go to four-year colleges. Without these loans, I hate to see where we would be today. My mother would never have been able to pay for our college tuition as a single parent. This is why loans are available.

It’s not just families like mine taking advantage of these loans. No matter your family’s income level, student loans can be used for room and board, books, tuition and more.

But where they get you is in their gimmick. “An investment for your future!”

Well, my future looks pretty bleak right now thanks to the mountain of student loan debt. I got a part-time job washing dishes and waitressing when I was 15 years old. From there, I worked my way up to bar tending when I was 18. All through college I continued with that same job as well as interning for the Dyersville Commercial. So I have been working and saving since I was 15 and it’s being sucked down the tube.

After reading the Newsweek article, I went back and highlighted a few things I wanted to make mention of in my column. There were things I agreed with from the author (Megan McArdle) and things I disagreed with.

She asks, “Is all this investment in college education really worth it? The answer, I fear, is that it’s not.”

McArdle said when you look at the degree you receive on paper, it’s not only a measure of the education you received while in college but more about credentials. “For years there’s been a fierce debate among economists over how much of the value of a degree is credentials and how much the education.”

Education is of value. Credentials have no value. So are we paying for credentials that are not worth a thing? Some students graduate from college and are not as educated as they should be, yet they have this piece of paper saying they have a thousand dollar degree that says they are.

As education costs increase, job opportunities decrease. Students struggle to find jobs in their perspective fields. I know of someone who went to school for sports management and sells insurance. I know of someone who went to cosmetology school and works for a financial institution. I know someone who went to school for fashion design and works for a childcare center. I am not demeaning these jobs, just trying to point out that just because you earn a degree in one field, you may not end up working in that line of employment.

And while colleges continue to raise costs, they seem to pay their higher-ups even more and more money each year. The author of this Newsweek article noted that the president of Yale earned $561,709 in 2000. As of 2009, the president earned $1.63 million!

So is college debt worth it in the long run? Ask me again in 20 years when I have my college debt paid off.

I hate to see where I would be without a college degree. It seemed just natural to go off to college after high school graduation. Granted, I lived at home for four years while attending a community college, but moved into the dorms when I transferred to Clarke in Dubuque. So I had my college experience later than some, but I saved a lot by living at home a while.

As college grads continue to acquire so much debt, how will that look for the economy? As college prices increase, will student enrollment decrease? What’s the breaking point for being able to afford college? Questions that unfortunately remain unanswered….