The credit card debt so many Americans are strapped with has been dwarfed by an even bigger problem – college debt.
College debt has surpassed the trillion dollar mark, leaving credit card debt in the dust. And at least with credit card debt, families have something to show for it.
A report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity found that “about 48 percent of employed U.S. college graduates are in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests requires less than a four-year college education,” according to The New York Times’ writer Charles M. Blow.
The short of it is: the traditional four-year college experience needs value added. And the value added is an online supplement to traditional higher ed.
The roots of the borrowing binge date to the 1980s, when tuition for four-year colleges began to rise faster than family incomes, according to authors of The New York Times’ A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College. In their report, the deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau likens excessive student borrowing to risky mortgages.
“Much like the mortgage brokers who promised pain-free borrowing to homeowners just a few years back, many colleges don’t offer warnings about student debt in the glossy brochures and pitch letters mailed to prospective students,” the Times’ authors wrote.
Nick Romeo, in How to Reinvent College for The Daily Beast, echoed those sentiments: “It’s simply not in their interest to encourage students to think closely about the economics of their choice,” he wrote about today’s college admissions officers.
College diploma translates
Yes, colleges are unaccustomed to worrying about student debt, but they know one thing: a college diploma is still a big step up on the career ladder.
According to a recent Labor Department report, the unemployment rate for college graduates was just 3.7 percent, less than half the rate for those with no more than a high school diploma (8.1 percent). And a partial degree doesn’t help.
“…The unemployment rate for those with some college but no degree — 7 percent — is not that much lower than that for people with no college at all,” according to Catherine Rampell , an economics reporter for The New York Times. “Given very high dropout rates at the nation’s institutions of higher education, this means that a lot of people are racking up student loan debt without seeing the return that that investment was supposed to bring them.”
The solution lies in the opening up of new avenues to a degree.
The new “higher ed”
College in America is poised to change in fundamental ways, according to Jeffrey Selingo, an editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education, who writes about it in his book, College (Un) Bound.
In a Daily Beast review of Selingo’s book, writer Romeo singles out one of the more familiar changes on the horizon: MOOCs, or massive open online courses.
“These courses allow hundreds of thousands of students to learn from renowned professors at a fraction of the cost of traditional courses,” Romeo writes. “Top-scoring students in a computer-science course offered by Udacity, a company founded by a former Stanford professor, have landed jobs at Google and other companies based in part on demonstrated mastery of specific skills valuable to employers.
“The use of such courses as recruiting tools,” he wrote, “hints at a more radical possibility: the gradual elimination of colleges as middlemen in corporate recruiting. Selingo and many educational entrepreneurs envision a competence-based certification system in which students earn “merit” badges for discrete skills as they perfect them.”
That’s where Credential.Me comes in. Stay tuned for the launch of Credential.Me, a cost effective way to store and share student test performance credentials for licensing, employment and a path to an affordable – and useful – college degree.
And just in the nick of time; most of us are still trying to pay off that other iconic American rite of passage — credit card debt.