We have all read about the problem and heard the staggering numbers involved. Examples exist of the $120,000 student loan for a master's degree in dentistry that landed the graduate with a job as a dental assistant. Then there are the law students with deferred repayment plans accumulating unheard of interest on loans.
The examples continue, but at the core of the crisis is the fact that upon graduation these educated, inspired, well-intended new members of our economic society can barely afford to live. In some cases, this debt repayment is forecasted to last up to 40 years. Some don't have a chance at ever paying it off.
How does this make sense? It doesn't. As our area releases hundreds of new graduates into the world in the coming weeks, we wonder how many of them will be able to obtain gainful employment after completing college degrees in philosophy, liberal arts studies, music or history. What's the job market out there for a philosopher these days? How about a musician or history buff? And will whatever job they manage to find be enough to pay off thousands of dollars in student loans? Probably not.
At the same time, the Tribune recently featured a story about the lack of trained mechanics in the marine industry locally. While these jobs could pay $24 or more per hour, they go unfilled. Why? Because the message to teens is this: Go to college. But why? So some can live saddled with student loan debt while working in a low-paying job upon graduation?
Parents, mentors and educators should help provide a realistic career outlook for all students based upon their interests and skills. Some students should pursue technical trades - electricians, boat mechanics and plumbers all make great wages - while others pursue college professions. An associate's degree, in many cases, also provides training for high-paying careers such as nurses and x-ray techs, with lower tuition costs. Consider the options.
Perhaps the pendulum will swing with time. The goal of graduating from a high-priced school of prestige involving a lifetime of debt will become less attractive. Instead, as some experts predict, the community college and career center may start to become more the norm. We'd welcome such a change. Local marinas would, too.