I am 30 years old, and I have been in “college” since I was 18 (with less than 1 year break somewhere in the middle). This is my 11 year in higher education within the United States system. One might say that this amount of time in “the system” makes me knowledgeable. Perhaps, in some ways, I am. However, I still learn more and more about the United States system every day.
Wikipedia defines higher education in the United States as “ … an optional final stage of formal learning following secondary education. Higher education, also referred to as post-secondary education, third stage, or tertiary education, occurs most commonly at one of the 4,360 Title IV degree-granting institutions, either colleges of universities in the country. These may be public universities, private universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, or for-profit colleges. Higher education in the United States is loosely regulated by a number of third-party organizations that vary in quality.”
This definition, even, has taught me something new about higher education in the United States. I did not know what Title IV meant, so I googled it. Title IV refers to a portion of the Higher Education Act of 1965 that talks about federal student financial aid programs. As discussed in a previous reflection, higher education in the United States is IMMENSELY expensive. People spend decades paying off federal and private loans that payed for their higher education. While I have been very fortunate in that I have received scholarships, fellowships, and grants that have covered 100% of my higher education (bachelors, masters, and doctoral), I fully recognize that this is not the norm. My wife is in a lot of debt from her undergraduate degree, and we are now accruing more debt as she pursues a doctorate in physical therapy. Her debt is becoming mine, which makes me more and more (painfully) aware at the stress that debt causes.
Currently, 44 million people collectively owe $1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt in the United States (Forbes 2018). One. Point. Five. TRILLION. Dollars. Sheesh – it is hard to comprehend this. And, the average person who owes student loan debt, owe nearly $40,000! It is depressing. We go to college to get an education so that we can get a job and support ourselves (and sometimes others). But, we continue to drag the ball and chain of a huge amount of debt long after we “finish” our degree. Something needs to change. Education reform needs to happen. How do you fix this? I do not know. Maybe a few more years in higher education will give me the answers. LOL.
That all said, I am greatly appreciative of my education and the opportunities it has presented to me. I have been fortunate and have had numerous excellent experiences. But … I am not personally in debt.