According to the Census Bureau, there are 59 million people 25 years or older who hold a bachelor's degree or higher. Business continues to be the most popular major with 12 million grads, while Education was the second most popular, with 8 million. The median income for high school grads who never went to college is $28,659; for those with some college but no degree, it is $32,036; those with a college degree $49,648; and those with professional degrees $87,356. This translates to lifetime earnings of $3.3 million for a doctoral degree, $2.3 million for a college degree and $1.3 million for a high school diploma.
According to College Data, the average yearly budget to attend an in-state public university is $22,261. The average at a private college is $43,289. CNN reports that the average college student in the class of 2013 faces $35,200 in debt. Putting that into perspective, the profile of the average U.S. household consumer debt shows we all owe $15,263 in credit card debt, $147,591 in mortgage debt and $31,646 in student loan debt. In total, American consumers owe $11.15 trillion in debt of which $994 billion is in student loans, a 4 percent increase from 2012.
In an article in The Huffington Post this summer, they predicted that student loan debt will exceed the median annual income for college grads by 2023. This is on top of the wages of college graduates actually dropping 5.4 percent over the last decade. Considering that Congress finally agreed this summer, after months of haggling, to stabilize the interest rate for college loans (which translates to roughly 3.86 percent for undergraduates and 5.42 percent for graduate student loans),at least the uncertainty of future interest hikes has been eliminated for families facing this huge debt.
Just about every parent (94 percent) says they want their child to attend college. So, with that encouragement, nearly 68 percent of high school graduates started out for college (44 percent of these kids to community college). Compare that to 43 percent of Americans attend church regularly and 50% of adults are married. College is now more popular then religion or spouses!
In the end, only 54 percent of these kids actually graduate within six years of starting college. So we have all these students with high hopes and dreams going in, but only about half graduate and join society with crazy student loan debt.
We would all love scholarships for our kids, but that does not happen to most. This weak economy of ours is forcing institutions to limit their generosity in scholarships and financial aid, so the average student takes on more debt than the generation before. Anyone wanting to go to college needs to explore every option for help. The Council for Opportunity in Education is a nonprofit organization established in 1981 dedicated to expanding college opportunities for low income, first-generation students, veterans and students with disabilities. Sites to help find money and scholarships include Fast Web, FinAid and Student Aid Alliance. If you want to help fulfill kids' dreams of going to college, look into Scholarship America to help with a donation. At DollarDays on ourFacebook page, we are giving away $2,500 in products to college students; so make sure you nominate a student who could use our help.
America is the land of dreams and opportunity. Anyone who is passionate enough to want a college education should be afforded the opportunity to at least try. It would be just great if we could make a college education free just like we do a high school education, but each of us in our right mind knows this is a pipe dream. So the $35K in student debt will turn into $45K for the next generation and so on. A college degree is worth a million dollars more than a high school degree over your lifetime. Being well educated is priceless. I guess the risk of adding to your debt may be worth the reward of being a strong contributor to our economic future. I just wish it did not hurt so much.