"I feel I kind of ruined my life by going to college," is a quote from a student who took out federal student loans at three different colleges on her way to a nursing degree. Loan totals: $150,000. Her story is included in a recent article in The Atlantic. My question is, “Did she seek and receive any advice anywhere along the way that could have redirected her to less costly choices?”
My heart aches for people who are trying, but don’t know what they don’t know, and end up in this kind of debt. This student’s whole life is now compromised by the prevailing college at any cost mentality. The Atlantic article, by Derek Thompson, goes on to report on a White House study that shows that while the media have focused on huge debt of those who got the education they sought, or even the “average debt” numbers, the even more pressing issue might be those who have smaller but equally oppressive debt loads. Many of these former students left a for-profit institution or a community college with no credential and minimal skills. These are the people who most often default on loans. They simply do not have jobs that support them to pay back the debt. Thompson writes, “This is particularly tragic, because these debt-without-degree adults chased the American dream into a dead end.”
The US Department of Education has focused on loan default rates, and many community colleges have been cited for large numbers of those who do not pay back on time, including some within KCTCS. Fortunately, our focus here at BCTC and the good work of student development, academics, and especially financial aid, has keep us off the naughty list. But the suffering is real for people whose circumstances have not allowed them to reach their potential, and on top of that, have left them with debt.
I know we take seriously the responsibility to advise and support students. First-generation college students, the majority of our students at BCTC, face a special burden of lack of knowledge and understanding about how to negotiate higher education. At BCTC, you can get an affordable education for a sustaining career. And, we will help any student apply for appropriate aid, seek scholarships, and juggle work schedules if needed. You can get a great education and keep costs to a reasonable level. Just ask us how.
Augusta A. Julian, Ed.D