Investing in Knowledge

by Lorenzo Burgio

It is becoming increasingly difficult to convince upcoming generations that education is vital when poor graduates surround them.

Higher education is becoming more and more unappealing as the debt graduates face and the duration to pay them off increases. Being able to finish high school then immediately generate an income has become an increasingly appealing thought. There needs to be a sense of urgency to ensure higher education is obtainable and appealing for upcoming generations.

Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” but it appears to be developing into a bad investment, or at least one that doesn’t seem feasible for many.

Seven out of 10 students graduated from a four-year public or non-profit college with an average of $30,100 in student loans in 2015, which is a four percent increase from 2014 according to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS). In Connecticut, the average student debt for graduates of a four-year public or non-profit colleges is $34,773.

This is part of a gradual increase that has been seen for years. The average student loan upon graduation in 2012 was $29,400, “a 25 percent increase from $23,450 in 2008,” according to TICAS.

In addition to the amount of the loans increasing, so is the amount of students who are borrowing. In 2004, 62.4 percent of public university graduates had student loans — in 2012, that number rose to 71 percent, according to TICAS.

One Wisconsin institute performed a study in 2014 that concluded the average bachelors degree holder takes about 21 years to pay off their student loans in the United States. This is an extremely long time for upcoming generations to commit to.

If nothing is done to make higher education more affordable and accessible for upcoming generations, the size and amount of student loans are going to increase and the number of college graduates is going to decrease. The benefits of an educated population can only provide a helping hand to the economical and social aspects of our country.

“Research has supported this conventional wisdom, revealing that education not only enables individuals to perform better in the labor market, but also to improve their overall health, promote active citizenship and contain violence,” wrote the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in a study about the social benefits of higher education.

It seems the words of John F. Kennedy have been forgotten and should be reiterated and taken into consideration to benefit upcoming generations.

“Student loans have been helpful to many. But they offer neither incentive nor assistance to those students who, by reason of family or other obligations, are unable or unwilling to go deeper into debt. It is, moreover, only prudent economic and social policy for the public to share part of the costs of the long period of higher education for those whose development is essential to our national economic and social well-being. All of us share in the benefits – all should share in the costs.”