The Free Press, Mankato, MN


June 5, 2013

Freeze student loan rates

Why it matters: Rising student debt and loan rates are problems but so are college careers that pay


Minnesota college students now graduate with an average debt load of nearly $30,000, the third highest in the country. Tuition at the seven state universities in Minnesota has increased by more than 100 percent in the past decade.

More than 40 percent of recent U.S. college graduates are underemployed or need more training to get on a career track, according to a poll conducted by the global management consulting firm Accenture. That poll found that many debt-laden graduates are in jobs now that don’t require a college degree.

According to this poll, the top industries that graduates wanted to work in were education, media and entertainment and health care. However, just over half, 53 percent, of graduates actually found full-time jobs in their field of study.

That’s not to say college degrees are worthless. It just depends on the degree.

A Georgetown University study released last week suggests that unemployment is higher for non-technical majors such as arts, law and public policy and information systems but low in education, engineering, health and sciences.

Co-author of the study, Anthony Carnevale, says students aren’t picking the right degreees because they haven’t been given the right guidance.

Carnevale told NPR “we have (300) to 400 students for every counselor in high school” and college guidance offices are generally set up to help students fulfill requirements for their degree rather than helping them determine long-term career goals.

One of the answers to this problem is a bill introduced in May requiring universities to disclose earnings of alumni and the nature of their employment to prospective students.

We’re not sure establishing that direct linkage back to alumni is necessary.

But colleges and universities could take on the responsibility of advising students upon entering college and then throughout their education what the job prospects are in their respective disciplines.

A two-year freeze on student loans should not be considered time to “kick the can” but rather to use that time and establish a long-term solution to the rising cost of higher education and whether that cost is sustainable without radical change.

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