Students’ debt puts forward challenge unmet

Less than a decade ago, finding several thousand dollars for a decent degree at an average university wasn’t uncommon, if not implied, among even the most modest of family incomes.

There weren’t any hoops to jump through. The routine was that the money thrown in that direction would reciprocate itself in the long run, exponentially outgrowing whatever amount came from the bank to cover it at the time. A loan here and there wasn’t exactly a rarity, but it certainly wasn’t the sort of thing you’d mold your retirement around. If you had to get one, you got one, and you’d pay it off later.

Nowadays, things aren’t so convenient. The new norm is not only the sort of loan that exceeds the amount of money required to attend the university in question. It’s one that requires its borrowers to graduate with a good enough degree, acquire a good enough job, and pay it off in the long run. And that’s a pretty unpredictable possibility.

This means financing college is becoming less of an effort designated solely to the student. Struggling students are finding it harder to zip through their four years on the fly, and in lieu of a co-sign, the mere notion of a student acquiring the documentation that’ll enable them to qualify for the big loan — assuming that they’re even in the eligible tax bracket — is an inconceivable one. Meaning said co-sign is exactly what they’ll try to get, which means the parents have to pay for college all over again.

It puts the mountain of money on an extra set of shoulders. There was a point at which a parent might make it their obligation to put their child through school, regardless of the obstacles before them, but those incidents are becoming scarcer.

How many of us are attending this university, not because we wanted to, but because it’s the cheapest item on the shelf? In the best-case scenario, the answer is “not many,” but even one person is too many.

Every decision that students make, from high-school graduation to tomorrow’s grocery list, are effects of the high costs of modern-day universities. There’s no more leeway, and it seems to only be getting worse.

The fact that high tuition and student debt is the new normal is ridiculous, and it’s time we fix it before things get more dangerous.

Bryan Washington is a sociology sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].


  • “It’s one that requires its borrowers to graduate with a good enough degree, acquire a good enough job, and pay it off in the long run. And that’s a pretty unpredictable possibility.” – You are correct regarding what is required of students, but incorrect regarding its predictability. While nothing in life is certain, there are actions you can take to tilt the outcome in your favor. Majoring in a subject that has decent job prospects is the most obvious place to start. An engineering degree costs about the same as a sociology degree, but has a significantly higher starting salary and better placement statistics. A college education is a large financial investment, and like any other investment, it is wise to focus on putting your money where it will get the greatest return. But because many students fail to do this, its hard for many in the public to sympathize with the recent college grads who have huge debts, no job, and a degree in a subject that has few, or poor, economic prospects.

  • I disagree with Bauer Alum. To pick your major solely on “rate of return” is a mistake. There are many adults in jobs now that hate waking up every morning and going to work. Choose something that interests you, excites you, makes you want to get up and go — then you will have a career, not a job. I will graduate with a high debt next summer. I am 50 years old. I didn’t follow where my heart was calling and WASTED 30 years doing jobs, instead of living a life fulfilled. Yes, you may have debt. Yes, some of us are sympathetic. But it will be worth it at the end of the day when you leave your career with a smile on your face. One of my advisors who graduated late in life like me told me this:

    “I will be making student loan payments until the day I die. Every month I write that check and I say, ‘Thank you’. It was SO worth it!”

  • UH Senior – I’m happy for you that you are pursuing your dreams. But its one thing to say at 50, with a lifetime’s worth of experience, that “money doesn’t matter, happiness does.” It’s an entirely different thing to say that at 19, only to realize at 27 that you want to get married, have children, and have a house to raise those children in but you can’t do any of that because you said “money doesn’t matter” when you were 19. Most elderly people I’ve met are most proud of the family they provided for and raised, not the careers they had. Having a large amount of student loan debt, without a degree that provides for a decent economic return, greatly reduces the chances of having a rewarding personal and family life that is free from economic insecurity. My career may not be the most fulfilling, but knowing my son has, and will have, educational and cultural opportunities far beyond what I had as a child makes it more than worth it.

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