The cost of college has gotten out of control
When I tell people that I have never had a student loan and paid for my undergraduate (and the 50% of my graduate) studies out-of-pocket, their jaws drop. It’s true. Kristen and I both earned our bachelors degrees and walked across the stage at graduation debt-free.
It really wasn’t that hard.
And yet, in the last 10 years college has gone from “really expensive” to “ridiculously expensive.”
For instance: I was an undergrad student at Moody Bible Institute in 1994-1995. Total fees paid for room & board, $4200. Same room & board 17 years later? $11,000. $4200– I was able to swing that. I worked full-time during the summer and part-time during school and made it work. $11,000? I don’t see how that is possible today. And that is at a private Christian college which doesn’t charge tuition!
Here’s a quick glance at the current costs of some various undergraduate programs: (looking at in-state, on-campus, with meal plans, etc.)
- Wheaton College: $37,180 (4 years = $147,720)
- Notre Dame: $55,260 (4 years = $221,040)
- UC Davis: $29,259 (4 years = $117,036)
- San Diego State: $23,232 (4 years = $92,928)
- Kansas State: $15,000 (4 years = $60,000)
For most families and almost all students that simply isn’t possible.
An undergraduate degree isn’t worth as much anymore
There’s an assumption that somehow all of that cost will pay off and that people who go to college will make more in a lifetime than those who don’t. But when you calculate in the cost of education, student loan interest, etc… earning an undergrad degree might not be your quickest path to financial success. Let’s compare two high school seniors. One chooses to be an elementary teacher and the other a plumber.
|Profession||Cost of Education||Interest paid by age 30 (assuming 50% of costs result in loans)||Average salary||Working years until age 30 (assuming you complete the programs on time)||How much money have you grossed by age 30? (pre-tax, after debt)|
Teacher – Bachelors degree only, assuming no years off and getting a job right out of college.
Plumber – 5 year paid apprenticeship averaging $17 per hour; 6 years as a journeyman plumber averaging $40 per hour.
The same is largely true for a lot of professions. It takes so long for the cost of the education to make it worth it, and at the same time people change jobs more often than you’d imagine.
The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.4 in January 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This measure, referred to as employee tenure, was 4.1 years in January 2008. The increase in tenure among those at work reflects, in part, relatively large job losses among less-senior workers in the most recent recession. — Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor
So there is a good chance that a person is going to go into debt learning a profession they might not work at long enough to make it financially profitable to do so.
This flies in the face of the mantra that college is for everyone. That’s a marketing lie. College isn’t automatically in the best interest of every student.
A sad fact is that a lot of people incur a lot of college debt but don’t complete their degrees nor enter into the profession they were studying in the first place.
I think, as youth workers who care deeply about the lives of our students, we need to help students and their parents find the best solution and not just a mantra that everyone needs to go to college.
The idea that everyone needs to go to college doesn’t make sense on so many levels. Not everyone wants to go to college. Not everyone deserves to go to college because they performed poorly in high school. Not everyone who graduates from high school knows what they want to do. And we don’t live in a society where our economy can support an environment where everyone gets a college degree. (There aren’t enough of those types of jobs, which is why a plumber makes more than a school teacher. Simple supply and demand.)
In fact, I think most students need to take a year off after high school. They need to get free enough from the rigors of high school to ask themselves the question, “Do I even like education? Do I want that? Is it worth my going into debt? Do I even know what I want to do?”
They need to get away from their parents. They need to leave their communities of comfort. They need to get a job. They need to just get the heck out of what they know to find out who they are!
In other words they need to be allowed the space to grow up.
Which is, in my opinion, their parents worst nightmare.