A ball and chain: college debt

Kayla Handy, Editor-In-Chief

Spring is a wonderful time. The sun starts to peak its head above the frosty grass, it scares away the fog and chases away the bitter cold wind that once made us all bundle up like marshmallows. But the warmer weather brings something else, a thought, or rather a fear to some people. It brings upon the world the opportunity to break out the summer clothes, shorts and T-shirts. To some people, spring brings on another worry: graduation.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree typically earn 66 percent more than those with a high school diploma. By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education or training. I am glad to think that I will be able to play a part in this statistic, that in 2020 I will be a number in the two-thirds of job applicants that can check off the box requirement of a college degree.

I can also check off another box that may not be on any job application, but I am sure each and every college student will undergo: college debt. What I don’t understand is how important our society makes having a college education, but then how costly it is to obtain it. The U.S. Department of Education also reports that between the years of 1992 and 2012, the average amount owed by a typical student loan borrower who graduated with a bachelor’s degree more than doubled to a total of nearly $27,000. Heck, over the past three decades, tuition at four-year colleges has more than doubled, even after adjusting for inflation. I am sorry, but if a college education is so gosh darn important, then why must I sell an arm, leg and possibly a kidney in order to pay for it?

I love the experience and knowledge that I have earned while obtaining my college degree. The memories I have made, the advances toward my career goal that I have taken, I am sure, will enable me to build a future for myself that is not only stable, but feeds my creative spirit and helps me chase down my dreams. Yet, I feel as if once I walk across the stage on graduation day, not only will I be carrying a diploma, but I will be dragging a ball and chain attached to my leg totaling the weight of my college debt.

I am sure that I am not the only one that is scared; but not for myself. I am more scared for the generations that come after me. If I am struggling with my college loans, with even thinking about paying off my college debt, then how will my children, and their children, pay for the necessary education that society will demand them to have in order to obtain a decent job?

Earlier this week, according to the “New York Times,” New York legislature passed the Excelsior Scholarship, a program that is expected to cut the cost of a degree from a four-year State University of New York college, normally almost $83,000 in tuition, down to $26,000 for an eligible family making $100,000 a year. It does not mean that a student will not be paying any tuition- an average student will still be paying $57,000 over four years. There are some requirements of this program  that many are overlooking, running straight to the conclusion that New York is offering free tuition- they are not doing this. The program will primarily benefit traditional students, must attend school full time and be on track to graduate within two or four years. After graduation, scholarship recipients must live and work in New York for as many years as they received this “last dollar” tuition award. If these terms are broken, the tuition grant becomes a loan that must be repaid. It’s a fish, hook and bait for those wanting to be free of their ball and chain. Is it worth it?

I may not like how double-sided New York’s legislature may have tried to entice students to pursue a college degree, nor may I like how much future generations may take this bait in order to better themselves and future their career goals. What I do know is this: if society is going to demand of us a higher education, if having a college degree is the golden ticket in life, then by all means, it needs to be more god-damn affordable. It’s hard working three part-time jobs, being a full-time student of two college degrees, trying to maintain a social life and a healthy diet. I’ll be darned if I have to see my children struggle as much as I did.

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