A Bachelor’s in Bankruptcy

The protective bubble of high school will soon burst as the prospect of funding college approaches.

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A Bachelor’s in Bankruptcy

As college tuition continues to outpace wages, federal grants and loans are an unavoidable reality for families of most college-bound seniors.

As college tuition continues to outpace wages, federal grants and loans are an unavoidable reality for families of most college-bound seniors.

photo by Neeti Cherukupalli

As college tuition continues to outpace wages, federal grants and loans are an unavoidable reality for families of most college-bound seniors.

photo by Neeti Cherukupalli

photo by Neeti Cherukupalli

As college tuition continues to outpace wages, federal grants and loans are an unavoidable reality for families of most college-bound seniors.

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To high school seniors, kicking off the new school year means not only taking on the pressure of difficult and demanding classes but also applying to college. With the growing pressure comes the dilemma of choosing a college and an intended major, specifically one that will propel us into a successful career.

But it gets even more daunting.  The sad reality is that the amount of college debt that we’ll soon be burdened with often alters our aspirations as we’re completing our applications. With the growing financial weight on our shoulders, a passion for music or painting or poetry may need to remain a hobby.

Each year, college graduates from across the nation put on their caps and gowns in light of their endeavors despite their failures, praying that their education will bring about a steady income and a successful career overall. Newton’s Third Law of Motion famously states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” — young Americans can relate. The happiness that will derive from being newly employed and receiving our first paycheck will likely be stripped away once we are asked to make our first payment on tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt.

Although not attending college may seem like a simple and obvious fix, it is for most of us the wrong one.  Nearly all jobs paying over $35,000 annually require a bachelor’s degree or higher. As Georgetown University finds, the educational demand for jobs continues to rise, with merely 30 percent of all jobs requiring no current schooling beyond high school as opposed to only 24 percent in 2020. Furthermore, Georgetown predicts that the US economy is expected to create 55 million job openings by 2020, primarily in the STEM, healthcare, and social sciences industries, all of which certainly require a college degree.

College students today are following the money. While many baby boomers remember graduating with little to no debt, the unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of the millennials find find themselves in a far different world. According to The National Center for Education Statistics the average tuition for private four-year institutions in 1986 was around $9,228 (adjusted to inflation) as opposed to $41,468 in 2016. The debilitating combination of an explosive spike in the cost of a college education and a lack of wage growth has left nearly 45 million Americans to drown in outstanding student loan debt. JP Morgan finds that student debt in the U.S. has reached over $1.5 trillion. The firm estimates that the average borrower has over $37,000 in debt, while over two million owe $100,000 or more.

With the cost of college rising at a rate astonishingly eight times faster than wages, many graduates struggle to pay for daily necessities, such as rent, car payments, and insurance, while others find college debt standing their way of purchasing a house, taking risks, and simply enjoying adulthood.”

With the cost of college rising at a rate astonishingly eight times faster than wages, many graduates struggle to pay for daily necessities, such as rent, car payments, and insurance, while others find college debt standing their way of purchasing a house, taking risks, and simply enjoying adulthood. The magnitude of the student loan debt crisis cannot be understated, and unfortunately, there is no clear solution in sight. Controlling higher education costs seems like an obvious measure, albeit implementing and enforcing regulations designed to do the aforementioned may be significantly easier said than done.

In the meantime, our most viable option may be to simply keep our eyes open and to educate ourselves on the costs involved in earning a college degree.  We might also brush up on the fundamentals of personal finance before committing to a particular school.

And when it comes to choosing a major, the sorry truth may be that most of us need to accept the tradeoff between our dreams and our debt.