Beyond the College Degree

Posted on April 23, 2014 by Kathy Hoekstra

Expensive costs and loans lead to financial worries for young adults

A recent Gallup poll asked America’s young adults about their biggest financial challenge. The results are not too surprising – College expenses and loans topped worries for adults ages 18-29. 21 percent of respondents in this age group said college costs are the biggest financial problem facing their families.

College loans even tied the top concerns list for the next oldest age group, 30-49.

The question is why do college costs need to be so heavy on the minds of college students and their families – and linger years beyond their days on campus?

When you consider that the cost of college has risen at FIVE Times the cost of inflation, and that 37 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt, these poll results should come as no surprise to anyone.

The desire to create a healthy financial future for ourselves and our families is an attribute shared by many Americans. How we get there is unique to each of us though. There’s no question higher education comes at a higher price. Many hardworking taxpayers and their families figure this higher cost is worth it to create opportunities after college. When those results do not pan out as expected though, many of those same college grads are left with the aforementioned debt and taking jobs that require only a high school diploma – or less.

Colleges and universities want to educate you, they require a lot of your money to do it so they heavily market a college degree as a must-have to get ahead.

While this works for some people, a secure financial future and fulfilling career path shouldn’t include the worry and financial burden on families as revealed by Gallup.

Perhaps a more thorough evaluation is in order to weigh the true need for a college degree versus the affordability, and include more educational options for life after high school. Community colleges offer much cheaper training and classes with credits that often transfer to the bigger schools. There are vocational or proprietary schools for those who know they’d like to specialize in a particular area. The nation also faces a huge gap in the number of newly skilled tradespeople. Jobs for electricians, plumbers, welders and others often pay well and lead many students to become business leaders themselves.

Many people find the most effective path to success in a college degree. But this isn’t the case for everyone. We owe it to our nation’s young people to encourage opportunities for success that are not always tied to an expensive degree.