Students stuck in vicious loan cycle
Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 14:07
Today, it seems as though college students are stuck between a rock and a hard place. According to a study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 60 percent of jobs in the U.S. require a college education, yet tuition increases plague both students and universities. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education reported that tuition averages have spiked 440 percent over the past 25 years. Students are told to view loans as an investment in their futures, but no guarantee of employment exists beyond the classroom. Today, it’s easier for students to attain a loan than it is for Mardi Gras attendees to acquire beads, and the simple fact is that 18-20 year olds should not be given that amount of financial freedom.
Sixty-three percent of UCF students complete a four-year degree within six years, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Other state schools fare worse, with University of Florida graduation rates topping the charts at 82 percent. The reality is that students are remaining in school longer because prices are higher, and the economic forecast is beyond cloudy — it promises torrential downpour. The higher-education bubble is quickly deflating, and a harsh reality is on the horizon.
“A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed. Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there is no Santa Claus,” PayPal founder Peter Thiel said in an interview with TechCrunch.
Thiel’s assessment, while unpopular, raises a valid point. Is college overvalued? The statistics show that employers want educated employees, but the price tag to get there is becoming a deterrent, and many students who drop out come to the conclusion that it isn’t worth it.
So what do we do about it? What’s next for those students saddled with debt? Students who are set on the college path need to begin planning for their futures the moment they enroll in a university. Scholarships can ease the burden of tuition if the effort is put forth to obtain them. Here at UCF, the Office of Experiential Learning and Career Services both offer various programs to assist students in the ominous job search during school and after graduation. KnightLink equips students with a platform to upload a résumé and a search for employers. Students can also draft career action plans. Students need to acknowledge the importance of setting themselves apart from the competition through more than just grades and recommendation letters. Internships, externships, work-study programs and other opportunities can all help students land a job after graduation.
As for students looking to enter a college program: Be wary. A student’s major selection is now a much more critical decision than it was 10 years ago. Next time students have a hard time finding that drive, they should remember that 22 percent of customer-sales representatives and 16 percent of bartenders currently hold bachelor’s degrees. That’s motivation for you and proof that college isn’t overvalued — it just takes hard work for that value to come to fruition.