Raised prices and lowered standards. That’s a familiar expectation for many of our experiences and products today.
In his recent article, “Subprime College Educations,” George F. Will shares some statistics that shed light on how increased prices and lower standards are changing higher education. Over the last 30 years, college tuition and fees have risen over 440 percent. Today, twenty-nine percent of student-loan borrowers will not graduate. Many college grads are entering the workforce unable to get a job that can put a dent in their student loans (He gives the example of one young woman who graduated with a degree in religious and women’s studies and $100,000 in debt making barely enough to pay off her monthly student loan bill).
Institutions should be held accountable for luring students in who can’t pay back loans or aren’t a fit for college, but students must also take on some accountability. Teaching individual students to run a diagnostics on their current financial, academic, and personal situation should be a guiding force for a deciding if and which college to attend; not the amount of money a college is offering in loans.
Educators, parents, and students themselves can help graduating seniors become more thoughtful and active participants in deciding if they are a good candidate for higher education. Here are a few ideas:
Get students interested in a career path early. There are many experiential learning experiences for students through their high school or on their own. Through service learning, internships, and after school programs, students get real-world, hands-on experience that can help them decide whether or not a chosen career is a fit, long before signing up for student loans and deciding on a major.
Show students their higher education options. Four-year colleges aren’t for all students. Associate’s degrees and certificate programs can be safer alternatives than entering a four-year program with uncertainty. A recent study found in some cases certificate holders make more than bachelor’s degree holders. Students should make their decisions based on their passions, interests, and abilities, whether that brings a certificate or a Ph.D.
Teach students to be financially savvy. Students need to be shown the big picture. If they take out $100,000 in student loans and plan on making $2000 a month out of college, how many years will it take to pay back their loans? It’s exciting to be accepted to a prestigious school, but a student’s college expectations may need to be adjusted to fit their finances.
Institutions, educators, and students all share responsibility for making a successful learning environment and a successful path out of college. Prepare students with practical knowledge about college and the world of work before they are caught by debt.
“Study Examines Vocational Certificates’ Big Rewards,” by Mary Beth Marklein. 6 June 2012. USA Today. Accessed on 11 June 2012. http://www.usatoday.com/