Out of the many freedoms that we enjoy, or alternatively, crave for, is to be able to achieve financial independence and dignity.
It shouldn’t be surprising to know that scientists have been intent on studying the effects that debt has on the human mind. After all, a huge proportion of the population contributes to the economy driven by different kinds of debt- either buying it, selling it or managing it. And one of the major kinds of debt that most youngsters these days take on are student loans. In that case, we really should understand what kind of influence and hold a debt can have on us, and understand the long term costs involved, and we aren’t talking about the money.
STUDENTS DEBT AND THE REAL COSTS OF COLLEGE
Recent research in the area of the effects of debt and earnings on our brain, revealed that the amount written on our paychecks is immaterial if one is not already financially sound. It’s clear; debt kills happiness. It is rather difficult to be happy when the debt monster is sitting on our shoulders, even if the joy is supposed to stem from the fact that you’re graduating soon or even today! A poll recently revealed that there is a ‘tipping point’ when education goes from being an investment to becoming a reason for existential angst. That point was at about $25,000.
Presently, the average American family has educational debt worth around $49,000. Considering that most entry-level jobs pay around $50,000 a year, the average American student will have to see 8-10% of their salary gone if they want to repay their loans in the next 10-12 years after graduating. The problem may not be the debt itself, but rather the chuck of the earnings it eats up, and there is where we can see how it can take a toll on our mental health. They say that all valuable things are worth paying a high price for, but this is a pretty false assumption when it comes to education. The fallacy lies in the perception that College adds value, so it is valuable, and therefore, it has to be expensive.
MERITOCRACY AND DEBT
We may be a far way off from free education. And by free, we mean the cost is included when we pay our taxes. New York paves the way in this avenue, but we haven’t gone federal yet. Even if this system comes to force, Ivy league colleges and the ‘deluxe’ ones will not stop existing, simply because there will be people willing to pay deluxe prices just to get enrolled. This is only an unattainable dream for a lot of students.
America, in all her greatness, has always been based on meritocracy. It the land where anybody who wishes to work hard to improve themselves and their skills – by getting an education or a job- and then gets a reward commensurate with their efforts. So for instance, if you spend energy and time building up a small business or learn skills in college to help you scale the next rung on the ladder, society would have some mechanism in place to reward you with profits and a good job, respectively.
WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES
When we speak of college education, the dream of skilling oneself and trying to make something of themselves should be made attainable to everyone who wishes to improve on themselves even though they do not have the means to do so. This translates to society providing subsidies and grants to students who may come from poor or middle-class families. Unfortunately, this idea is like a bitter pill for some people, considering our current socio-political climate, who would not want their tax dollars to be wasted on the future generations of American citizens. The few federal programs which do offer, grants, subsidized loans, and scholarships have their funding reduced by America’s ultraconservatives.
Meritocracy was not meant to be an all-exclusive club. In an ideal situation, students should not have to work more than a few hours each week so as to concentrate on their full-time courses and education. Nobody should feel doubled down or burdened by education, which sadly, a lot of students do. Knowledge is something, which is to be shared by all and not to be enjoyed by just a few. But the cost of getting a good education should not come at ruining one’s financial standing.