Is college still worth it?

Charlee Strangia, Staff writer

37 million Americans now have student loan debts that cumulatively total over $1 trillion. With college costs rising almost twice as fast as inflation, it’s no surprise many students feel like taking on debt is the only way to afford a degree.

For many graduates, the debt of school becomes too overwhelming; 14% of former students have delinquent or defaulting loans and 10% of 2007-08 students graduated with over $40,000 in outstanding loans.

That number has only risen in recent years. Students who go on to postgraduate studies can accumulate much more debt and finish school with loans still outstanding from their first years at college.

When it comes to students looking for a four year degree or possibly more, community colleges like Hudson Valley offer very reasonable rates compared to four year schools and can often help students cut down on the debt they will graduate with.

Hudson Valley Freshman Brandon Mihach commented “A lot of my friends are going into their first year of college with ten or twenty thousand dollars of student loan debt already , I was able to afford this school without having to take out any loans and hopefully I’ll graduate Hudson Valley debt free and can go to a four year school without already worrying about loans”.

However, even reasonably-priced state and community colleges have students who are struggling to afford to go there. Barbara McBride, assistant director of Hudson Valley’s Financial Aid office stated “A lot of people don’t realize that many students take out large loans to go here and struggle to pay it back and that the debt is commutative, it follows you even if you go on to more school”.

From 2004 to 2009, only around 50% of college graduates made timely payments on loans. These statistics leave a lot of students questioning whether or not college is even worth it, but rest assured, income-wise college graduates are still way ahead of the game.

According to the American Student Assistance Organization, Americans ages 25 to 34 with a four year degree earned on average 114% more than Americans without high school diplomas in 2010.

The average salary of an associates degree holder is around $37,000, while the average salary of a bachelor’s degree recipient is around $45,000 which is closer to, but still less than the national average, which floats around $50,000 and $55,000.

Maintaining a competitive edge in the global job market a degree is becoming more and more vital. McBride offered “In this technical age, lifelong learning is a reality for everyone and education is just necessary.”

In the past few years, there has been a call for action as the public becomes more and more concerned with rising college costs. In 2012, the “Occupy Graduation” movement generated some buzz and helped spur the federal government to action.

A federal program entitled Project Student Loan was enacted by the Obama administration to help reduce payments for students struggling. Less than 1 million students have enrolled, but it’s projected that the program could help more than twice that number.

With a competitive economy looming no one seems to question the value of the degree, only the tax it places on younger generations and the threat to the merit based education system.

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