Editorial Submission By: Logan Zelk, Seminole Student

College is the center-point of life for the average American. In 2011, 21 million people enrolled for college. And who doesn’t love the thought of wild parties, raving independence, character development, and life-long relationships? Stories that last forever, cherished in our hearts and seared into our very brain cells, memories that flicker across eyes as college graduates sigh their last sigh. In this vein of thought, of life-long memories burned into our skulls, there is certainly one that stands out the most, and is possibly the symbol of our generation — crippling student debt.

In fact, in 2013, Forbes recorded the total amount of student debt as $1.2 trillion, not including other troubles that are harder to record, such as diverted funds from credit cards and the related interest. Of course, student debt as a problem wouldn’t be complete alone, as our generation has the unique grouping of debt with an over-saturated degree market and a slow economy. In the face of all this, what do our parents and guardians recommend? More college they say, it is the only answer.

The reality is that since 1965, the percent of adults with a basic college degree has increased from below 10% to above 30%. Using the mentality of older generations that any college is a good college was a useful policy for the 60’s and 70’s, where it was actually an advantage over others in the workforce and distinguished you from the whole.

However, the status quo has shifted, and now everyone has a degree, thanks in part to the mentality describe above. College degrees are not only heavily expected of one, but also basically required for anyone expecting any realistic chance of being hired in the market. Nothing distinguishes an individual from the next person, since the probability is that they have one too, necessitating one to either dig yourself deeper in the educational-debt hole, or sacrifice job quality to increase your value to an employer.

Perhaps even worse is for the individuals who deem that college is not the best suit for them, or that college is too expensive for them. According to Careerbuilders and CBS approximately half of hiring agents require a basic college degree, and an extremely close statistic of 44% require a complete undergraduate degree of 4 years. Even 31.4% of fast food workers, a job most associated with high school dropouts, had some college experience. In effect, it means that college has not only burdened the middle class, but extends the poverty gap further.

To make it worse, some institutions have sprung up that feed on these individuals sense of increasing worry and desperation. For-profit colleges, famous examples including University of Phoenix and ITT Technical Institute, appeared, using the claim that these colleges were for those who were too burdened to attend, or needed cheap education fast for workforce competition. What many did not know, and unfortunately found out, was that these colleges have large marketing schemes aimed at desperate and poor individuals, and had the highest default rates in the country. In fact, the top four of the top 5 colleges with loan defaults were for-profit schools, with the number one being University of Phoenix.

What elicits such high defaults? High interests and aggressive marketing campaigns targeting the desperate.  Even going as far to target U.S. veterans or widowed spouses, adding crippling interest rates and hounding agents. In addition, for-profit colleges only exacerbate t+he original problem further, giving large amounts of people inflated degrees that, in turn, makes them less valuable, returning those who got them effectively where they began. So what is the suggested solution? Mike Rowe feels he has the answer. Rowe says that the nation has a deficit in the amount of available skilled workers — plumbers, electricians, garbage-men. “We need to nurture mechanical talent in all those who possess it and encourage all forms of learning,’” says Rowe. He even created a foundation just for the purpose, linked in his quote above.

Indeed, there is a market imbalance, and blue collar workers are high on demand, but low in supply. If more people applied to vocational schools, it would lessen the burden and numerity of college degrees, and increase the amount of skilled workers in the States, bettering everyone. There is more to life than college, and it’s readily available to everyone.