Earning a Degree in Debt

by Joe Lavelle on June 29, 2011

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I have written several posts recently about the heavy burden that college graduates have in their attempts to find a well-paying job in this economy.  Many of our students are walking off the stage after commencement and right back into their parents’ houses because they cannot find a job or at least find one that allows them to live on their own.  Those who dreamed of a large salary and a corner office with their framed diploma hanging proudly on the wall are meeting the reality of a tough economy and rising tuition prices that don’t match the payout that follows.

So, CNN has asked the question that is probably on the minds of many college students and their parents:

Is the debt worth the degree?

CNN’s website is featuring seven stories of men and women who are feeling weighed down by a tremendous amount of student loan debt.  For some the debt is six figures in size and they are facing payments of more than $1500 a month for the next thirty years!  The article features one woman who has been making the minimum payments on her loans for the past three years only to see her balance go up by $7000 due to interest.   That reality can be difficult to face, especially as these young adults dream of starting a family, buying a home, and all of the other exciting moments in life that we dream about from a young age.

So, what is the answer to avoiding the same mountain of debt for the next generation?  We could encourage our kids to pursue studies in fields that come with a large paycheck, but that removes the joy of learning and following your passion.  Maybe we need to be encouraging options other than college for students, rather than making it appear to be the only route to success.  Or, do we need to make saving for college a priority in our families before babies are even born?

What are your thoughts concerning these young professionals who are carrying around $100,000 or $200,000 in student loan debt?  What advice do you have for people already in this situation and for those who are not in college yet and want to avoid the same burden in a few years?

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