Student Debt: It's More Complicated (And Better) Than You Think
"The end of December is traditionally a time when high school seniors and their parents sit down for a serious conversation about college. ... Over the past few years, media attention to student debt levels has made family conversations even more stressful," Donna Randall, chancellor of Albion College, writes for The Huffington Post's The Blog. "Indeed, an informative report released earlier this month (Student Debt and the Class of 2012 by the Institute for College Access and Success) provides sobering data for families to consider. The report reveals that student debt level continues to rise each year. Seven in 10 college graduates in 2012 had student loan debt; if they graduated with a loan, the average debt was $29,400. ... What do parents and graduating seniors need to consider as they look at financing a college education? They need to know that there is tremendous variation in student debt load across geographic regions, states and institutions, and that they should look beyond 'sticker price' (published tuition and fees) when comparing colleges. ... As families discuss the affordability of various colleges, they may prematurely eliminate a college from consideration based on the stated sticker price. While it is true that higher-cost colleges tend to graduate students with higher average debt, there is no direct correlation. There are several examples of 'pricey' colleges that graduate students with little debt and vice versa. ... Families may also want to work directly with financial aid offices at those colleges and universities under consideration. At Albion College, as at many colleges and universities, financial aid counselors are quite willing to provide student loan counseling to assist families in understanding available options and making wise decisions. Many colleges are now teaching students about debt management and financial literacy. ... Is it really worth the time and effort for a family to explore college affordability options? Yes -- a college education is life-changing. College graduates and their families benefit from an enhanced quality of life; local communities gain an informed and engaged citizenry; and, with a better educated labor force, our nation can compete more effectively in a global economy. Especially now, in our still-troubled economy, employment opportunities alone speak to the value of a college degree: The unemployment rate for recent high school graduates is more than double the rate for recent college graduates. College is an investment, and, like all major investments, it should be carefully researched by the consumer. It is worth the effort."
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