Opinion: The college conundrum


Published: 08-24-2023 6:00 AM

Adam Czarkowski works in the technology sector and lives in Penacook.

As the new school year approaches, this year will be a little different for our family. This year my son enters his senior year of high school. So, in addition to academics and sports, we must add planning for college to our “to-do” list.

Deciding where my son and our money will go to further his education is not a decision that should be made without lots of due diligence. The purpose of a college education is to give your child an advantage in the job market in their chosen field. A college degree should be worth more in greater earnings over time than what it costs.

According to Forbes, as of July 2023, over $1 trillion in student loan debt is either in forbearance or default. It would appear these borrowers did not get the value they expected from their degrees.

The surge in student debt should not be a surprise. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 1980 to 2020 the total cost of college has increased 180%. Colleges have no incentive to reduce costs. If your child gets a job with their degree, they get paid. If your child doesn’t get a job in their field, they get paid. That is the joy of federally backed student loans, the colleges can’t lose.

With the astronomically high cost of education, what are parents to do? In 2023, taking on excessive student loan debt is like smoking in the late 1960s. Everyone knows it is harmful, so why does anyone do it? I can understand how difficult it is to tell your child the college they have wanted to go to for years and have a banner of in their bedroom is financially out of reach. It is better to have a tough conversation now than have your child bogged down with debt for decades.

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The average 18-year-old has no concept of life in the “real world.” The cost of rent, utilities, groceries, and health insurance leave little room for a large student loan payment. To the average 18-year-old, a student loan is just something to worry about in the future.

As parents, we have a duty to safeguard our children from danger. That duty does not end when they graduate from high school. Parents must play an active role in the college decision. Parents need to have an honest conversation with their children about what they can contribute financially and the long-term consequences of student debt. That is the only way we get the student loan crisis under control.