Is college debt worth the risk?

Jessie Li

By Micah Lundstrom, Managing Editor

In the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, student debt has reached $1 trillion, raising the question of the value of education. Those who choose to attend college run the risk of getting caught in a whirlpool of debt without the payoff of immediately entering the workforce. According to the New York Times, the rate of unemployment among recent liberal-arts graduates is at 9.4 percent, much higher than the 7.9 percent of that with the nation unemployment rate. Seeing these numbers and knowing the cost of education, students are beginning to ask: is college worth it?
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that the average student loan balance is at about $25,000, as students are borrowing twice as much as they were 10 years ago in order to adjust to inflation. Combined with the risk of unemployment, college has transformed from the pursuit of professional career to a risk assessment. Young adults have started to think about the opportunity cost of college and what life goals they may be suspending or even sacrificing in return. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, says “Students who borrow too much end up delaying life-cycle events such as buying a car, buying a home, getting married, [and] having children.” With the added danger, students have to pay attention to more than just the decision of their major. Mark Schneider of the American Institutes for Research advised to BusinessInsider.com that students need to weigh the advantages of going to an expensive college against the availability and affordability of that same major at a less costly college. While going to Harvard University would be an impressive accomplishment, for example, if one was going for a liberal arts degree, another college might be a more financially sound decision.
For some, college still stands as a valid investment, but the student has to possess the desire to finish their major and be willing to invest time in something that won’t pay off financially right away. While the threat of unemployment after college lingers ominously above a student, the fear of failure should not be reason to sacrifice a passion. Whether it is employment out of high school or attending college, the decisions made today decide tomorrow.