December 8, 2008
The first political training program I did included a resume class where I was told that no one cares where you went to school or what degree you got, they want to know what experience you have. Now, my expensive degree is only tiny line at the bottom of my resume. It doesn't even say what degree I got, nor does it mention any honors or activities.
For me, the entire process was bittersweet: I quit school for a year to work on a political campaign, and graduated college with over $40,000 of debt from a state school in Kansas.
While my student debt plagues me each month, I can't help but feel empathy for those Millennials behind me whose degree expenditure is climbing well above the anticipated sticker price.
Rising college tuitions are pushing higher education further out of reach for more young people. According to an article on CNN.com:
"College tuition continues to outpace family income and the price of other necessities, such as medical care, food and housing."
The CNN article cited a recently released study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education that gave hard figures on how fast college costs have risen:
College tuition and fees, adjusted for inflation, rose 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, towering over increases in medical care, housing and food, according to the report. Median family income rose 147 percent during the same period, the report said."
The news isn't all that surprising given our current state of financial meltdown, but the magnitude of the crisis is still shocking.
Recently, the California State University (CSU) system, which is the largest state school system in the country, announced that it's cutting back on the number of students it admits to make up for a decline in resources. It's the first time in 48 years that the 23-campus system will turn away qualified high school graduates and community college transfers.
In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed described how the school's fiscal crunch might compromise the quality of its students' education unless drastic measures were taken:
"Quality is all we have, and we have got to guarantee to the people of California that the 93,000 graduates that we turn out each year are ready to join the workforce," Reed said. "We cannot continue to admit more and more students with less and less money. Class sizes have increased, workload (for faculty) has increased, and services have gone down."
When the services, Reed speaks of, go down, the result is higher costs passed off to the students. Those higher costs mean more loans by failing banks, while some students wonder how they'll be able to pay for it all.
Looking back on my college experience, I've had to ask myself tough questions. Even if you can write the check or get the loan, what's the point when the price tag is so inflated you're questioning whether or not it's worth it?
Kansas, along with 48 other states, got an F on college affordability by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. The statistic is shocking enough for some for some to call college affordability a national crisis.
In a recent Chicago Tribune piece many students are interviewed about their buyers remorse:
"College graduates still earn substantially more than high school graduates on average: $59,365 annually compared with $33,609...But they caution that some college choices are no longer a wise investment. Students destined for low-paying careers, they say, simply cannot manage certain debt levels."
While I continue to admit a certain level of buyer's remorse, the experiences I gained by working on a political campaign after I quit school for a year was worth everything. It was invaluable experience that I wouldn't have gotten by sitting in a lecture hall, or even organizing at school. The moral of my story is: internships and taking time off for those key job experiences or trainings are worth it, even when your parents are freaking out that you'll never graduate.