Student Debt Loan Crisis: Students Have No One to Blame But Themselves

One trillion dollar unpaid student debt; this number surpasses our nation's credit card debt, and it's only increasing. One-in-five households now owe student loan debt, the greatest burden being on the young and the poor (a 1,120% increase in the cost of a college degree in past 30 years in the U.S). Thirteen percent, the current default rate on federal student loans, stands for the first three years that students are required to make payments — the highest level in 14 years. The situation has reached the point that universities like Yale have started suing its former students for defaulting on loans.

About 48 percent% of employed college graduates have jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests does not require a four-year college education. In addition, a A 36 percent% spending increase on administration and staff support, while 22% on instruction, between 1998 and 2008 in America’s private colleges — while 55% of people ages 16 to 29 have a job today (the lowest percentage since World War II).

Now, here are some of the highest-paid professors by subject area:

$134,146, law professor
$112,679, engineering
$109,919, business and management
$101,219, Computer science 

Meanwhile, here are the median Salaries of Senior College Administrators, 2011-12:

Senior executives and chief functional officers

$480,000 Chief executive of system/district, doctoral
$392,150 Chief executive of single institution, doctoral
$302,500 Executive vice president/vice chancellor, doctoral
$541,419 Chief health-professions officer, doctoral
$566,733 Chief administrator, hospital/medical center, doctoral
$308,254 Dean, law, doctoral
$486,997 Dean, medicine, doctoral

There is no doubt that millennials attempting to enter the workforce with crushing student loans and high unemployment rates are hit hardest by this prolonged recession.

At the first look at the above figures, one might get the impression that overpaid professors and administrators are mainly culpable for the gigantic rise in the cost of college and also for the trillion dollars of student debt. But when I read detailed stories of debt-ridden college graduates struggling to make a living, I began to realize that students must share the responsibility as well.

First of all, many students fail to see a college education as an investment. As with all investment, you must demand returns from the time and money you invest. For example, you might refrain from borrowing $169,934 to study documentary filmmaking at New York University if you considered that the chances of getting a job and paying of your loans were slim. The reality is that learning for the learning's sake is a luxury that most of people cannot afford.

Secondly, most college-bound 18-year-olds are inexperienced in investment and finance. Their inexperience and immaturity could cost them heavily later in life. Like a graduate who borrowed heavily for filmmaking, two jobs were barely enough to pay off her monthly payments. She said, "I am basically coming with a house on my back that we can't live in." The worst part is that many graduates must settle for jobs unrelated to their major or jobs that they are over-educated for in order to both make a living and pay off the debts.

Thirdly, there are unrealistic expectations, a sense of entitlement, and a myth about education as an equalizer lurking in the minds of college students. This lets them justify throwing mountains of money towards "qualitative" majors. It's as if they have an "open sesame" fairy tale in their minds, as if upon graduation, a door will automatically be thrown open for them, a door to a decent job, and a ticket to a middle-class lifestyle. As if society owes them all of this.

Young people should realize that nothing is guaranteed simply by graduating from college. Society does not owe everyone with a diploma a job. Instead, their major, their hard work or lack of it, their networking skills, their resourcefulness, and their accomplishments during their college years all play a part in landing a job.

I once said to a college-bound student, "if you choose a major without researching its employability or if you decide to borrow heavily for college without considering the possibility of repaying your loans, you are the only one who is responsible for the consequences of your decision. You are an adult. In the end, you owe yourself an explanation."

Make no mistake, college provides a once-in-lifetime experience. Spending four years with kindred-spirited young people in an academically enriched environment is a privilege and a luxury. As with all privileges, this one comes with cost and responsibility. 

While we cannot control how much the colleges and universities charge us and how fat paychecks the college administrators take home, we can control how and where we invest in our future or how we spend our time. If you don't want to land on a job in a coffee shop with your college degree or if you don't want to end up having a Lousy Investment, it is crucial that you know what you are going to do with your life and how you reach your goal, with or without a college degrees. If you choose to go to college, it is essential you know the employability of your major and make sure you learn something or gain a solid skill that high school graduates do not normally possess.