CLASS OF 2013: FEAR THE DEBT REAPER

It’s early, but Kyle Wingfield, columnist with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, thinks it’s time to address graduates.
His October 2012 column suggests that graduates – mainly high school graduates – think about their options before going to college.
Wingfield suggests that they not end up like Katie Brotherton, a young Cincinnati woman who is $190,000 in debt from college and graduate school. She’s living in her parents’ basement.
Brotherton is “looking for answers.” As Wingfield points out, it started with her decision to go to college with borrowed money.
You can envision a pattern: a person goes to college, thinking she would get a good job when she got out. She doesn’t. So, she decides to go to graduate school, thinking it might broaden her qualifications and buy her time for the job market to improve. Meanwhile, she’s incurring more debt.
She gets out of graduate school with no good job and lots of debt. She moves back home. She doesn’t want to be living at home, but she has no choice. Her debt and lack of employment leave her unable to afford to live on her own. Her parents sympathize with her plight, but they, too, would rather see her out on her own.
A few decades ago, we were told to go to the best college we could possibly get into. The best schools would open more doors, we were told. The best schools, often, were usually the most expensive. But if those schools opened more doors, you’d be able to pay back your education fairly quickly with a good job.
Many of the “good” jobs that students thought would be there are not. In fact, they may have disappeared permanently.
As Wingfield points out, education inflation is rampant. There could even be an education “bubble” getting bigger by the day. We all know what happened with the housing “bubble.” It’s not that students should not get an education, it’s that some education does not provide a great return on investment, in terms of career opportunities.
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with getting a degree in history, literature or some of the other liberal arts. No education is really wasted. But students have to evaluate whether that education is worth the debt incurred, or, worth the sacrifices your family might make to provide it.
ARTS, HISTORY MAJORS: YOU HAVE OPTIONS
If you love history, the arts or psychology, you can still pursue them. But you can do so at less expensive schools close to home. You may be able to parlay those degrees into a good career, but you have to understand that most people with such backgrounds cannot convert them to real dollars.
All is not lost, however. You can get one of those degrees without using it as an income producer. There are many excellent ways to produce income outside your educational background. To check out one of the best, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau.
Even if you have a degree in engineering, the sciences, technology, mathematics or other fields in great demand, you might want to have a Plan B if your career plans don’t turn out the way you want them to. There are excellent income streams that can get you out of your parents’ home as an adult.
So, as Wingfield addresses the class of 2013, he suggests that they not lower ambitions, just understand the reality. Not all college degrees are the same. Most college degrees can be obtained from schools that are not cripplingly expensive. Remember that as you get older and proceed in your career, or life, where you went to school becomes less important in terms of whether you get hired. A degree is a degree. You will succeed largely on your experience.
Success comes in many forms. Being a great historian may not produce lots of income, but it may produce great successes. Just realize that you may have to find another way to make a living, or create wealth for yourself.
Educational institutions need to be aware of the “bubble.” It could burst, and they could find themselves with great, expensive programs, and no students that can afford them. Students need to be aware that there are ways to make an income regardless of education. You just have to be willing to check them out.
Peter

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