“College will be the best four years of your life.”
How many times have we had someone tell us this? Everyone hypes up their own collegiate experiences to excite current or soon-to-be college students. No one, however, talks about the years after college. Some of us are lucky enough to graduate without having to worry about student loans or heavy debt, but the reality is that a majority of students going to universities in the United States have some amount of debt that they take on. The disturbing fact is that these steep student debts now span generations of families.
The trend began with Generation X — those between 35 and 50 years old. When the X’s were considering going to college, federal policies changed so as to sway this generation into borrowing money on a large scale to cover the cost of college. Getting a college degree at the time was a highly reputed ordeal and the widespread belief was that a college degree would ensure that the students would be able to repay their loans without much effort. This assumption, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth. As of this year, an estimated 6 million Gen-X households still owe student loans. The effects of such circumstances are that many of these households cannot afford to send their children to top tier colleges for fear of spiraling deeper into debt.
The reason that America’s next big crisis is student loan debt is because the value of a college degree has somewhat decreased compared to 25 years ago. By value, I mean that going to college is no longer as big of a deal. It is, for many people, the norm. And even though a college degree is essential in securing a well-paying job, it certainly does not guarantee employment. Years ago, people could get by with just a high school diploma, but as time has passed society has changed. The implications of parents still paying their own college loans from 25 years ago is that they cannot bestow their children with the opportunity to go to any college they want. This hinders children from receiving all the necessary resources they need to succeed in life.
These events reminded me of an incident that The Denver Post reported back in 2012. While most graduation caps embody messages of happiness and positivity, students graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder chose to silently protest the increasing amounts of loans that they would have to repay after commencement. Their graduation caps were decorated with the exact amount of debt that they had to repay. I imagine that it created a morose atmosphere, but then again this is the bitter reality. The sooner that the government considers the rising costs of a college education, the better it will be not only for us current college students, but also for the future generations to come.