When college students immediately have to worry about debt consolidation upon graduation, who suffers? The students, obviously, have a lot to worry about. But what about the colleges themselves? And, looking far into the future, what about the rest of society? Who knows how many talented doctors or attorneys we’ll lose out on as the costs to obtain these degrees become unmanageable for a growing number of students. These are interesting questions that journalism teacher Laura Heller addresses in a blog post for the personal finance site WalletPop. Her view? When students are drowning in debt – both of the student loan and credit card variety – academe as a whole suffers.
Too Much Debt
It’s not hard to picture today’s medical student or engineering graduate student one day calling up a debt consolidation firm. Medical students, for instance, typically graduate with more than $100,000 in debt. Even the typical undergraduate student graduates with more than $20,000 worth of student loan debt. This doesn’t include credit card debt; the average undergraduate student racks up about $3,000 worth of this kind of revolving debt while in school. These are sobering numbers. And they’re having a big impact on colleges and universities, writes Heller.
In her post, Heller cites several studies showing that today’s college students are, for the most part, flocking to lower-cost options. Enrollment at community colleges is on the rise. It’s the same at public universities. But private colleges and universities are struggling to keep their enrollment levels up. This isn’t surprising. Tuitions are high enough at public universities. They’re even more daunting at private ones. For families who are worried about the nation’s high unemployment rate, and whether they can pay their mortgage each month, shelling out big bucks for private colleges may not seem like a reasonable option. And for students themselves, the prospect of leaving college with tens of thousands of dollars of debt in a weak job market might seem like an unwise financial move, too.
To avoid a future of debt consolidation, many students are taking a more creative approach to their college education. Why else would online colleges such as Phoenix University be so popular? And why else would so many students elect to take as many of their credit hours as possible at community colleges before enrolling in four-year public or private universities? Still, even with these creative measures, college education is rapidly becoming an unbearable burden on students and their families. Something has to be done to change this. Are the country’s college officials, education advocates and politicians creative and dedicated enough to take on this challenge? Let’s hope so, or else the only ones who will benefit are the debt consolidation companies.