In December 2007, the United States entered what economists have regarded as the worst recession since the Great Depression. The median household income plummeted, and took with it the national and global economic state as a whole.
In a world in which layoffs have become a part of the scenery, expanding deficits a routine cycle, and struggling Americans a seeming fait accompli, where can young men and women turn to create a better life for themselves and their future families? College is the widely accepted answer among the general population. Although the economic statistics that once applied to our society are quite enticing, they are, quite frankly, but statistics that ONCE applied to our society.
As a student in my junior year of high school, the ideal college experience has been programmed like a microchip in my brain as far back as my memory serves. With this program comes the formula for a successful life as defined by the generations before me. According to this formula, a little hard work in school, cross multiplied by a few extracurricular activities and a decent score on a certain standardized test (which I will not name here, but I will say it is a three letter acronym that includes the letters T, A and S), and the next four years of three parts partying and one part learning would be sequentially followed by a high-paying job in my preferred field and perhaps a chocolate cake, just because. With the immense recognition and wealth that would accompany this position, I would be able to buy anything I desired — a house, a car, a boat, a private jet — and essentially live the American dream.
If, given an unexplainable stroke of rebellious and downright irresponsible decision making, I committed the ultimate offense of not attending college, my future would be bleak, with no chocolate cake to greet me.
Although simplistic in its design, this formula proved quite effective in motivating me, as well as most of my peers. However, after recently looking into the loophole in this theory, I find it quite frustrating that I cannot seem to find my way back to what manifests itself to be popularly considered the light. Although I most likely would reap the most benefit from staying true to the old adages, I am now convinced that there is no pot of gold at the end of the college rainbow.
The hook that reels in the majority of unsuspecting college-bound students and the one that ultimately leaves them up the creek is the tangible: money. Colleges and politicians alike will tell you that x years of college education yield y more lifetime earnings. Spare me the antics. There are, beyond the alluring promise of high lifetime earnings, numerical and financial plagues that someone contemplating his or her future may want to consider before enrolling in lifetime servitude, so let’s talk numbers.
According to a study conducted by the NIA between 2009 and 2010, more than $109 billion in student loans were borrowed yearly, and current U.S. student loan debt is up to $1 trillion, surpassing that of credit cards. In the recent economic crisis, Americans lost $10.2 trillion in paper money, crippling the value of properties, stocks and even oil. However, one price tag not only seemed to beat the odds and maintain its full cost, but also continue to grow by nearly 29 percent over the course of the last five years: college tuition. At around $30,000 per year, on average (excluding the recently tripled cost of textbooks), college has taken a turn for the financially devastating for graduates.
A recent study conducted by ABC News shows that 85 percent of college graduates expect to move back in with their parents within a year of graduation. But where, you may be asking yourself, as they are probably asking themselves, is the shiny new car? The impressive beachfront house? That darn chocolate cake? Well, my bright, young, college-educated friend, those things all come with the job.
The job, however, is currently MIA, although your IOU is not, and that leaves you undoubtedly SOL. Countless horror stories of graduating scholars drowning in their student loans can be found all over the Internet if you have the time between SAT prep and writing your college application essay to check them out. In fact, for a short period of time, there was a trend circulating on YouTube in which people would record themselves setting aflame their diplomas, law degrees, etc., as a symbol of the value of a college education.
Consider that before signing on for a $250,000 piece of paper.