Senior Suggestions: Debt dilemma: Is college worth the cash?

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Fresh out of school, it’s something that weighs heavy on our shoulders. It seems to overshadow our accomplishments. It looms over our heads and inhibits our ability to consider applying for credit cards or move out of our parent’s house. It’s our debt, and it’s inescapable.

Student loans have become more than a financial phrase: they have become a fear many aspiring students would like to avoid but can’t.

The young adult dream is no longer the big house on the lake and the window office. It has evolved to being in an apartment with friends where everyone can afford to eat. In today’s economy, the big question is: Is college debt really worth it?

Many don’t even consider going to a certain college because they can’t afford it. But there are many opportunities to acquire money. New Jersey, for example, has a program, NJ Stars, where eligible students can go to community college for two years for free and all they need is to maintain a 3.25 GPA.

Personally, I have accredited a decent amount of loan debt. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) literally sent me a blank piece of paper when I was a college freshman. I could have gone to the community college for free for two years, then continued my education online, all while working to pay any debt I accrued.

That would have been the safe route.

However, college is an experience. Had I stayed home with my dad, I would not have turned into the person I am. Living at Rider has changed me. I have learned so much in the classroom setting, and I would not trade this experience for anything.

College gives you the opportunity to meet professionals in the field. We have talented professors here at Rider, and networking has become as important as the degree. Going to college allows you to develop relationships you would not get by clawing your way up the work ladder. This can lead to internship opportunities or job offers. College is an opportunity center, and we should take advantage of it.

Gaining the degree and the relationships a college can provide gives you a leg up in the work place. It’s easier to start out above peers with a degree, and it also helps with promotions. Most employers look for an educated applicant and won’t accept people without college degrees.

The U.S. Department of Education found in 2014 that students who have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree working full-time were earning more than high school grads. Even though these young adults may still be paying off loans, they can do so comfortably in a secure job. That is compared to the high school grad making about half as much in a field they may not enjoy because they couldn’t get a job they wanted.

I have debt. I am not in debt. I am living with debt. A debt I will eventually pay back. A debt I do not regret. I will get a job I love, eventually. A college education is an unforgettable experience, and honestly, this has been the best three years of my life.

 

—Rena Carman

Senior communication studies major

 

Printed in the 09/07/16 issue.

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