A headline in the local paper caught my eye today, and upon reading the article it talked about how many retirees are now in higher debt than they have ever been in in their life. The reason? Lavish spending? No job to support a normal lifestyle anymore? No. None of those things that might make sense -- rather, they are indebted because of the help necessary to provide their kids with money to pay off debt accumulated from a college education.
People often worry that when they grow old that they might be a burden on their kids -- whether financial, or health and general care; but I can't imagine ever being afraid of debt that serious happening that late in life. I imagine it feels an awful lot like a hole that you simply cannot dig yourself out of -- unless you die.
When I was applying to schools, four or five years ago, there wasn't a second thought in my head of how much debt I would be in, or how I would pay for things. I knew that I would get what scholarships I could, and honor the deal that my parents have always had for the kids; being that they would cover tuition if I covered everything else (that means room and board, gas, car expenses, personal desires, textbooks etc.). I still take out a Federal loan every semester, just to help with those general living expenses. But certainly I am at a supreme advantage over those who have had no financial help from their parents throughout their college years.
Nowadays, perhaps the mindset needs to change. Perhaps employers need to consider the possibility of hiring people that do not have a college degree, which might very well be because they simply couldn't afford the education. Gone are the days when employers would hire college grads and then foot the bill for graduate schooling. But how can it possibly change? A bachelor's degree doesn't mean anything anymore. It is like a rite of passage, an expected achieved just like a high school degree used to be. At first glance that sounds like a good thing -- but upon further inspection one might come to the conclusion that this means that more people are being forced into going to graduate study, something they might very well not be able to afford by any stretch of the imagination, just to get hired at a base level job! This means the base pay, base benefits, all while trying to balance the recently raised level of interest on college loans.
The article mentions that when the decision of whether or not to go to college comes, rarely does one think about how much they're really borrowing and what their monthly payment will be come graduation. Nor do they think about the type of salary they need to make in order to foot those monthly payments all the time. A lot of us depend on the idea that our parents will be able to bail us out if we need it, provide refuge if we can't pay the rent, and offer a free place to eat if we can't pay for groceries. I hate the idea of being that much of a burden to my parents, but is it necessary at this point?
It just goes to show that if you deciding on colleges, pick carefully. Pay careful attention to price, and overall cost, not just tuition. Do some math, do some financial calculation. Nowadays, going to a good school doesn't guarantee a good paying job. Keep in mind how important things like grades, extra experience and unique connections makes. The best of all of those things will keep you a step ahead of the competition.
Is college a worthwhile expense? I still think so. And I hope that come graduation in two years, I'll have a place to live and a comfortable salary at a place where I enjoy my job and the work that I'm doing. There may not be any guarantees, but out of all the jobs out there, there's got to be one for little old me to survive on.