How to Avoid the Growing Problem of College Debt
I’m afraid. I’m very afraid.
Like many of you, I am a parent. My son is a junior in high school, and I am afraid of the financial fallout from the next six years of his life.
First, I have to say I am proud of my son. He has worked hard, earned excellent grades, and has positioned himself to be accepted at colleges and universities that he wants to attend. He has caused minimal trouble, and is the type of young man I hoped he would be.
However, I become concerned when I see the upcoming “reward” for all of his hard work. He will spend four years accumulating college debt while he acquires a credential that will serve as his ticket into the best opportunities available to him within the workforce.
According to USA Today, “the class of 2014 graduated with an average student loan debt of $33,000.” Forbes recently cited that “student loan debt has reached a new milestone, crossing the $1.2 trillion mark — $1 trillion of that in federal student loan debt.” This represents a load on the average graduating student that is double what was seen 20 years ago, adjusted for inflation. As with any loan, while it might be needed to “buy” a college education, most people do not understand its cost. Over just 10 years, that original amount of $33,000 is likely to double as it is paid back, resulting in the graduate paying $66,000 of his hard-earned cash in payments. At $6,600 per year, $550 per month, that is a large bill for a new, well-qualified graduate. Welcome to the workforce!
For my son, this message is confusing: his hard work, intelligence, and effort is valuable, yet he will be hamstrung with significant taxes and loan payments that may total more than 50% of his pay for the first 10 years of his career.
Fortunately for him and others, there is a workaround: enter college with credits that you earned before you ever set foot on campus!
In most states, and in many high schools, students have the opportunity to begin college when they are ready, and do so at a reduced cost, or no cost. This is true for traditional, blended, and online high schools. Across K12’s network of managed public schools, families have saved more than $3.6 million dollars in future tuition costs by taking advantage of this opportunity. As students earned more than 6,000 college credits, they were earning more than college credits – they were earning the opportunity to keep more of their paycheck when they are in their twenties and thirties.
Perhaps most importantly, these opportunities now exist for students who will have to become skilled to do work that in past generations required only a high school diploma. This includes jobs in manufacturing, logistics, and transportation. In general, it is most difficult for those students who would be the first generation from their family to go to college, even if to a community college to earn an associate’s degree.
So, I am afraid, but I am also encouraged. For those students who are ready, a growing number of early college options are ready as well. As time passes, our schools, and others, will offer more options so that after graduates are in the workforce, they can look to their future without being hampered by the debt from their past. As for my son, Patrick will be taking college courses this summer through a local college – and earning the opportunity to keep more of his paycheck after he earns his diploma!
For more information, please explore K12 high school course offerings and learn more about how you and your student can avoid or reduce college debt.
Patrick (Pat) Keeney, Director of College and Career Planning for HS Product Management, is a career educator who has spent time in the classroom, consulting, launching a company, and with K12. Pat has also been a learning coach many years, and has seen the K12 experience from that perspective. Although he is presently in Product Management, Pat served for almost 7 years as part of the K12 Product Development group where he was the lead instructional designer on many high school math and science courses, and helped in designing games like X-germz. Prior to his time with K12, Pat was a consultant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and founded an online education company. He also spent 17 years teaching in classrooms in Maryland and Pennsylvania, teaching high school mathematics and science, primarily physics. Pat’s interests range from basketball, a sport that he played and coached, to chess. He finds that games are more than time wasting activities but are one of the best ways that people learn about and simulate the world of experiences.