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Following the Rules

Are student loans a good thing?

I was on the bus coming back from a field trip a few weeks ago talking to one of my friends when he casually mentioned that he’s $15,000 in debt. Keep in mind, this kid is barely 22 years old and already in more debt than the average American made in a year 40 years ago. Is that right? And more importantly, does his diploma make up for it? If he doesn’t have some big windfall of cash soon, he’ll be making debt payments every month for the next ten years or more. What kind of system forces kids to take on debt like that?

1930s America?

Alright, I realize that college is supposed to be expensive and is supposed to be a barrier to enter the highest paying jobs, but that’s not what college is now. Now, you need a diploma to even walk in the door of most boring jobs, or so I hear. And it’s probably a bad assumption.

Instead of getting to go wherever they want, and do what they want, people with debt decided to go to college on the promise of a future job and locked themselves up. The thing is, if you went to Namibia or Afghanistan and lived for four years like a local, I bet you would learn so many marketable skills just trying to get by. You’d have stories to tell, you’d probably speak another language, and you would have developed as a person. All things that make you attractive at an interview and a great hire, even without that $15,000 slip of paper. You might even make money.

So glad I dropped out and came here.

If you went to college instead for four years, like I and most Americans are pressured to do, let’s see what you end up with. Hmm, a large monthly payment that holds down your options, the ability to write a long research paper in unreadable academic english, the same party stories as everyone else, and, if you were forward thinking, some ‘leadership’ experience running a club or organization. Tell me, please, which one of these people looks better in an interview?

I guess as a business owner, you might be more likely to go with the college student, but only for the wrong reasons. The first, college students saddled by debt are less likely to complain about their jobs because they need the money to pay for their substantially higher cost of living. College students have also been trained to defer to authority making them great at blindly following directions. But what kind of job has people taking direction, respecting and listening to the boss’s every word and making a barely livable wage? Retail jobs and working as a waiter, both jobs that barely require a high school diploma.

Guy covered in bricks

I’m finally getting somewhere

The main point of this post is: kids, stop going to college unless you really want to or your parents are going to pay for it. It’s definitely worth going to, and you’ll learn a lot about yourself, the way you make decisions, and how to deal with people, but it isn’t worth locking yourself down by getting into debt unless college is one of your dreams, and if that’s the case, look into your assumptions and really figure out why you want to go to college, and don’t go if it’s one of these reasons:

1. “If I go to college I’ll get a good job”

Wrong, you’ll get a good job by meeting people who have good jobs and being interested in them.

2. “People don’t respect kids who never went to college”

First, why do you care so much what people think of you? If you have this assumption, it probably stems from something deeper in your childhood, but it’s pretty easily broken, just think about some of the people who got by on little if any college: Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Ben Franklin, and a bunch of other people. Do you think they sat around feeling sorry for themselves because they never got a piece of paper claiming they were learn-ed? I doubt it.

As you can see, both of these reasons are terrible, and if you have another barrier please feel free to tell me about it, but from my point of view college is a money sink, and one that should only be taken up if your parents will easily pay for it. If not, just have crazy adventures for the next four years and save on the monthly payments.

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