In a matter of years, you can go from worrying about having enough money for the pop machine, to having enough money to pay for your education. Despite counselors, family, teachers, friends, and television shows all saying different things to us when we're 17 or 18 years old, ultimately we - ourselves - are often expected to finally decide which college we will go to, and what we are supposed to major in. Big decisions, particularly because many of us are also deciding to take on student loan debt as part of that endeavor.
Four years zoom by, and suddenly it's graduation day, and you're saying your goodbyes to the place where you spent the past few years of your life. The student loan repayment grace period is there to give you comfort, for six months. But then, it's over, and you have to start paying them, the dreaded loans, back.
It's like Kanye West sings on his song Good Life from his album Graduation., “Having money isn't everything, not having it is.” Graduation... speaking of that... At my graduation ceremony, I saw a student with the words "Game of Loans" written on her graduation hat in glitter. So true. Best case scenario, we can all be like Lannisters and pay our debts.
Sometimes, of course, the hurdle is too high, and the obstacle is one not so easy to overcome. College costs have climbed to twice their rate in the mid 1970s and student loans have skyrocketed. [i]It has gotten so bad that one survey has even found that 30% of respondents would sell an organ to erase student debt.
On that note... We can all agree there is a problem with college affordability. What do the people trying to lead this country and state think about it? And what can we do about it?
The 2016 Presidential candidates each have their own respective proposals for fixing the issue.
Some leaders, are encouraging high school students to think before taking out big loans, and to consider their full arsenal of options. At last May's Mackinac Policy Conference, there was a big focus on encouraging youth to consider going into skilled trades such as the construction or tool-and-die industries. Governor Snyder and Mike Rowe, the host of the television show Dirty Jobs, both promoted the idea at the conference. An article in National Public Radio notes that economists also support the idea of encouraging such vocational studies.
"With so many boomers retiring from the trades, the U.S. is going to need a lot more pipe-fitters, nuclear power plant operators, carpenters, welders, utility workers — the list is long. But the problem is not enough young people are getting that kind of training," Anthony Carnevale, the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, told NPR.
Other leaders, like President Obama, are encouraging students to go to community colleges. Earlier this year, the White House unveiled a plan to finance community college education for students willing to meet the requirements of a new program.
A fascinating report by the non-partisan non-profit, the Center for Michigan recently released their results of a rigorous year long survey of Michigan residents called Getting to Work The public’s agenda for improving career navigation, college affordability, and upward mobility in Michigan.
The report summarized their findings, "When it comes to college education, Michigan residents say they face a conundrum. They firmly believe that earning a college degree or other advanced training beyond high school is very important to prospering in today’s economy. Yet ever-rising tuition now leaves many questioning whether the costs of college actually pay off in the long run."
An overwhelming majority found that earning a college degree matters, but they were split on whether the degree was worth the cost. The report surveyed Michiganders on a variety of proposals to fix the college affordability problem. Overall, respondents found these ideas intriguing but had serious reservations about having to personally contribute to any of the solutions.
For now, this appears to be the status quo. In the meantime, on a micro level, those of us trying to repay our student loan debts can try to be financially conscious, and use one of these great applications to keep our day-to-day (and night-to-night) spending in check.
Steve Zoski (@z0ski) manages the volunteer program of the Michigan Science Center, a Midtown Detroit institution that makes STEM learning fun even for a liberal arts guy like himself. He is a proud University of Michigan alum, and is addicted to reading almost as much as he is addicted to coffee. The coolest "person" he knows is actually a dog.