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As students begin leaving the haven of their parents’ homes and entering a world of ruthless, self-interested money lenders who endeavor to exploit the ignorant, bureaucracy-laden institutions of higher learning willing to transform aspiring scholars into indentured servants, and callous governments which look on without sympathy as the money earned by the sweat of one’s own brow is extracted from his starved bank account, there is no need of our outgoing senior class more pressing than the need for financial literacy education immediately after graduation. Equipping our youth with the tools necessary to make informed decisions in an increasingly complex economy will not only provide innumerable benefits to them but also help to guarantee a better economic future for the nation as young consumers age, enter the workforce, and steer the economy. Financial literacy education will enable graduating students to effectively weigh the risks of higher education, allowing them to thrive throughout their adult lives.
By informing graduating students of the cost and value of higher education, the capacity for superior decision making can be inculcated in aspiring college students. Though seventy percent of high school graduates will enroll in college (“College Enrollment and Work Activity”), only forty percent will graduate within six years (“Digest of Education Statistics, 2016”). This astonishingly low retention rate combined with an average student debt of fourteen thousand dollars for dropouts (“College Dropouts”) and thirty-eight thousand dollars for graduates (Friedman) makes a college education a speculative investment of one’s youthful energy and young adulthood. High levels of private debt act as a drag on the economy, discouraging the purchase of homes and cars and prohibiting the financing of other sectors of the economy as the debtors struggle to pay climbing interest rates (Freedman). Students ought to be enlightened when making judgments that will determine the course of their lives, but they are frequently sold the lie that the choice to attend college is the only correct choice to make. The misinformation and disinformation surrounding the price of a college education are a blight on the American economy which ought to drive us all to search for a cure.
The support for any potential financial literacy program designed to address the growing student loan problem would likely be homegrown. Because banks in the United States stand to gain from the the massive student loan industry and are actively seeking to carve out a large portion of the market for themselves (Mitchell), it is unlikely that they would support a program that could cut into their profits. Though the government is not turning a profit on student loans (Cooper) and may be a less partial patron, the legislative process that could allocate funding is lengthy and heavily influenced by interest groups. Because of this, the burden of educating the youth will inevitably fall to local communities and parents. However, the necessity of local funding does not doom a financial literacy program. The cost of a seminar can be minimized by utilizing public facilities such as town halls, libraries, and parks, being frugal in the acquisition of educational materials and refreshments, and advertising the event through cheap yet effective avenues such as social media, teachers, and local school officials (Jensen). The needs of our students could be met by our own communities.
It is crucial that our high school graduates be equipped with the information necessary to weigh the risks associated with higher education against the benefits of the venture and make decisions that will allow them to prosper. If our communities are willing, adequate funding could be acquired for a financial literacy program. The future of our economy, our nation, and our children is in our hands at this moment. Will we leave our children vulnerable in their ignorance or arm them with the knowledge necessary to prevail as they navigate the world of after high school?
“College Dropouts and Their Student Loan Debt.” LendEDU, 3 Jan. 2019, lendedu.com/blog/college-dropouts-student-loan-debt/.
“College Enrollment and Work Activity of Recent High School and College Graduates Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26 Apr. 2018, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm.
Cooper, Preston. “Why Government Doesn’t Profit From Student Loans.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 4 Aug. 2017, http://www.forbes.com/sites/prestoncooper2/2017/08/04/why-government-doesnt-profit-from-student-loans/#7d6a1fdceb63.
“Digest of Education Statistics, 2016.” National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a Part of the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_326.10.asp.
Freedman, Josh. “Student Loans Are A Drag On The Economy And Society.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 11 Feb. 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshfreedman/2014/02/11/student-loans-are-a-big-drag-on-the-economy-and-society/#15735bce4bc1.
Friedman, Zack. “Student Loan Debt Statistics In 2018: A $1.5 Trillion Crisis.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Oct. 2018, http://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2018/06/13/student-loan-debt-statistics-2018/#62024a837310.
Jensen, Katie. “How to Cost a Seminar.” Small Business – Chron.com, Chron.com, 26 Oct. 2016, smallbusiness.chron.com/cost-seminar-81414.html.
Mitchell, Josh, and AnnaMaria Andriotis. “Banks Want a Bigger Piece of Your Student Loan.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 7 Mar. 2018, http://www.wsj.com/articles/banks-look-to-break-governments-hold-on-student-loan-market-1520418600.