Four years and $25,000 of debt later…

On average, students who leave a four-year American university have $25,000 in student loans. To put this into perspective, this huge number is the same as buying about 6,000 Big Macs or 25,000 Snickers bars. In a country where college has become the expectation for all high school graduates, have we stopped considering if this staggering debt is worth the setback?

In October of 2013, 65.9 percent of American high school graduates were enrolled in a four-year university. Of this 65 percent, nearly 15 percent dropped out before finishing their degree, burdened with thousands of dollars of debt. Does it seem fair to push all students to go to college if there is a high chance they will finish with nothing more than a huge debt?

As our country pushes college as the only real option for students to secure a successful future, there are a few problems that need to be recognized. The big four letter word: LOAN. Student loans may take the majority of your adult life to pay off. The average debt that students leave school with is the equivalent of the average American’s yearly salary. Is that something you want riding on your back until you die? Not all students should be forced into choosing this for themselves.

While it is clear that there are other reasons for students to enroll in a university, most  students are pushed by their families and teachers in high school. It is an expectation that students go to college and get a degree in order to start a successful career. This is where the problem begins; students who may not be ready for this extension of schooling are pushed through the process anyways.

Although society alludes that college is the next step, there are other ways to find success. A new program that does just this is emerging in high schools around the country called Career and Technical Education (CTE). It is a program designed for students who originally would not attend a university and develops them for careers in technology, an ever expanding job market.

Before college was expected of all students, there was always a decision or a cut off for who is well prepared to continue their education. It was okay if college wasn’t for

Photo: Huffington Post

Photo: Huffington Post

everyone. Now, though, there is a rising standard for students to continue their education beyond a high school diploma. Schools are pushing the “college experience” and the choice to secure a career.


College placement exams reveal that many students who start at a university aren’t ready to take the classes that are offered for credit. This causes many of the incoming students to take classes that will not go towards their degree to graduate, but cost just as much. These students should be prepared throughout high school to take classes at the level they need for credit or put in a program that is more suited for their skills. But, universities also recognize that students are not ready for this transition and admit them anyway. These institutions do need money to run every aspect of them, but admitting students who don’t have the capabilities to take classes for credit does nothing for the school.


In recent years students with college degrees have returned to jobs that were originally made for students coming directly out of high school or without a high school diploma. This is a population of people looking for higher managerial positions and there quickly becomes a gap between these open jobs and the amount of student graduating each year. Here is where the college decision breaks down. Besides the social experience, what does a student really receive if there is no way to reach a goal of maintaining a career in their studies?


That’s where the options come in. Instead of attending school for four (or more) extra years there are other solutions. An up and coming badge system is forming where classes and skills are taught online. Once these skills are mastered, badges are received with a certificate for completing the courses that focus on very specific skills. This could allow employers to see a very strong description of the experience possible employees have easily. This could be a solution to those who have chosen not to attend college but need to build skills and a resume.


Trade school is another option that could lead to a more job-specific course load where students can easily go into their field without extra unnecessary classes. This is a quick way to get the training one needs to pursue a job.
Regardless of your choice, schools and families should start to recognize that not everyone is cut out for a traditional university. Maybe the best solution to this growing problem is telling these students to truly assess if college is their right path. There are millions of opportunities to succeed in the country, maybe college isn’t everyone’s path.

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