For decades, American youth were told that college was a golden ticket to success. For many, a college education meant better opportunities and more income.
This notion is finally getting some well-deserved pushback. Rising tuition costs, deceptive marketing, and student loans now mean that college isn’t always a good idea.
If you are a high school senior, the situation looks complicated and confusing. Is college still a good idea? Should students be afraid of higher education costs?
The Dangers of a College Education
Student loans have become a nightmare for millions of Americans.
The burden is especially difficult for the students who were duped into attending colleges that offered little educational value. Federal regulators have made efforts to shut down some of the worst offenders. However, deceptive for-profit schools are an ongoing issue.
The problems in higher education extend beyond the worst offenders.
Some college degrees don’t justify the high cost of tuition. Students now must carefully balance the significant investment in education against the downside of not attending. Figuring out whether or not student loans are worth it is a considerable challenge.
The students who don’t graduate face the worst of both worlds: life with student loans but without the income to repay the debt.
Dropping Enrollment Numbers
Given the backdrop of financial risk, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that college enrollment numbers are dropping.
The Covid-19 pandemic certainly explains lowered enrollment numbers, but fear of student debt is also a contributing factor.
Taking the time to carefully consider your college options is essential. However, at the point where fear replaces careful consideration, we may be overcorrecting on our advice to potential students.
The Value of a College Degree
Despite the rise in college costs, a degree still has substantial value to graduates.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a Bachelor’s degree earn 67% more than high school graduates who don’t attend college.
The question for our leaders and parents is the same: how do we advise young people on the risks and rewards of a college education?
Finding a Balance
There isn’t one easy answer. College can be an excellent investment, and it can be a huge mistake. We can’t say that all colleges are good, and we can’t say that all student loans are bad.
Borrowing $10,000 in federal student loans to fund an engineering degree at a top school is almost certainly a good idea. Borrowing $50,000 in high-interest private loans to pay for a for-profit school is almost certainly a mistake.
Most college decisions are not as obvious. Tools like the Department of Education’s College Scorecard can help, but a collective mindset change is necessary.
We can’t paint higher-education decisions with broad brushstrokes. Is college a good idea? Maybe.