What Happens When You Have a Degree, Debt and No Job

I got lucky – I never really entered the job market. In fact, I had already begun interning here at Caster before I walked across the stage donning my cap and gown and was moved into an entry level position only months later. Like I said, lucky. I don’t take it for granted, especially now as I watch the class of 2009 step out into the worst economy most of us have ever encountered. Having spent four years living on loans only to be faced with the possibility of no jobs, no steady income and no health benefits is the sad reality for many of these grads. And the loans – my god, the loans, well, everyone has them it seems.

The Boston Herald reported over the weekend the prediction given by two prominent higher education experts that the next financial bubble in the US to burst will be in colleges and universities.   It seems that tuition rates, which increase at seemingly exponentially high rates every year, are regularly hiked way more than inflation.  So people have to borrow more now than ever to even have a chance at a BA and then graduate with more loans than their degree and subsequent job market can support.  This coupled with the seemingly never ending stream of student loans, largely backed by the US government, make it a disaster waiting to happen.  Or burst. 

Smaller colleges could go bankrupt if the majority of these loans are defaulted on, as so many of their student body rely on them to pay their tuition and fees.   We’re sending people to school on credit – who is actually paying for the education?  If upon graduation, no one can get a job due to the failing economy – who is paying back these loans?

The question is a scary one.  Analysts at the College Board are predicting between 20 and 40 schools could close this year and are warning that the layoffs at prestigious schools like Harvard and MIT are only the beginning. 

What is the solution?  I made some decisions recently regarding my next steps in higher ed and it seems many students may follow in my path – pursuing degrees online.  Once thought of as invalid, online degrees have made significant strides in gaining recognition as legitimate ways to earn a degree, particularly a Masters.  The program I am enrolled in is less expensive than my Bachelors and allows me to continue working in my current position. 

I think the real solution lies in the value we put on education in general in this country and how much we’re willing to sacrifice in order to compete in the global economy.  If the next generation can’t afford to be educated at higher learning institutions, how will our collective knowledge and innovation ever be on par with the European Union, for example, where the majority of their students receive a free college education?  I’d say we need nothing sort of a revolution.

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter

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