Friday, February 13, 2009

College: Chicken or the Egg?

A recent Forbes article reports on the problems with student loans and the actual value of college education. It reports on how massive student loan debt is an incredible burden to college dropouts and even college graduates.

I found the article interesting because I am experiencing the same kind of thing with the young people around me as well. I only had a very small student loan when I graduated from college. I was fortunate enough to have parents who funded my college education and received a degree that gave me a marketable skill. I've since paid off that loan.

My wife, on the other hand, would fall into the category of the people who that article talks about. She went to college and came out with about 33K in debt. We are still working to pay it off and it has been a source of shame for her. I have to continually remind her that I married her for her and that if the debt truly bothered me, I would have walked out instead of proposing. So it is now our debt and I very much intend to pay it off as soon as I can (which could be at most three years from now if she and I buckle down and do what is necessary).

But I can't help but wonder what are the socio-economic impacts that such debts will be making on our nation as a whole. We have a large percentage of the college-age adults coming into the real world with thousands of dollars in debt that they cannot hope to pay off by the time the reach 30 (and in some cases, 40). Since federally insured student loans are not bankruptible and no court order is needed for wage garnishments, you will pay them.

I would hope that the Federal government would scale back the number and amount of student loans that young adults can qualify for. Maybe just make it equal for all students, regardless of the college they attend or the major they are seeking. The impact of this is that there will be less college students, but I don't see that as a bad thing. In fact, we may see more college students actually working for their tuition rather than goofing off while going into debt.

I am not holding my breath though, especially with the official position of Obama being to restore our nations' credit lines. But it might be something worth bringing up with your representative in Congress.