The bitter-sweet taste of attending a higher ed institution: Part I


Crystal Kwaw

Graphic by Philly Nevada/the Gateway

Parents, jobs, schools or communities … at least one or all endorse college as the main way for success. The price is an investment and whether it pays off is where the anxiety comes in.

Career and higher education are linked. According to an article on Global Verification Network titled, “Do Companies Check Degrees?” some lower paying jobs require a bachelor’s or associate degree. According to the article, “educational credentials listed on a resume matter now more than ever.”

It is credential capital for many employers, and it takes the span of two or more years and thousands of dollars to get it. Its ties to financial success are deeply ingrained into the standard career path.

Degrees serve as opportunity tickets, if opportunities are available, and they’re pricey tickets. Earning wages and living more than paycheck-to-paycheck without a degree is possible, but, as risky as it is to choose to go to a college or university, it is still risky to choose not to go. It is financially safer, yes, but the path to financial success takes risk and resources.

Universities and colleges are rich in resources, experts and perspectives, no matter how marginal. It’s like the internet of scholars. It is also not without flaws from the education system as a whole.

In 2019, higher education is like investing in multiple cars.

From the 1970s to now the cost of tuition has risen, as has the amount students borrow. UNO students graduate with an average of $19,500 dollars in student loans, including private student loans and Parent PLUS loans, said Danny McGinnis, associate director of support and outreach at the UNO Office of Financial Support and Outreach.

According to an article on Student Loan Hero titled, “Don’t Let Financial Anxiety Ruin Your Life: Practice this Instead,” the American Psychological Association conducted a study in 2016 showing that three-quarters of participants had reported stress about money.

Emma Byrne, a senior majoring in business finance and investment portfolio management, said her $4,000 subsidized loan is helpful. As scholarships cover her tuition, she’s able to take care of herself, Byrne said. There’s a “positive aspect” because college will help her establish herself financially, she added.

Ann Messina estimates around $80,000 dollars in student loans once done with this year. The UNO senior and political science major outlined that she received an out-of-state scholarship and, while she applied for other scholarships, she is claimed as “dependent,” although she and her relatives are estranged.

She said she felt “not great” about the loans. She works full-time and intends to go to law school. “You’re stuck” she said as she explained that dropping out was not a viable option.

“I have options,” Messina resolved. “It sets the future for doing non-profit work,” until the tuition-withdrawal incentive kicks in.

“I’m hoping it’ll be worth it,” Messina said. “My roommates are worse.”

The collective anxiety of student loan debt and the future is present on spectrum. One side is full confidence that one will be able to pay it off gradually doing what they love and then some. The other side is complete fear and anxiety that one cannot outrun the rat race.

The price of financial wellness feels risky to higher-ed students because it’s one of the first financial decisions we make as a culture right after high school.

Although I’ve heard anecdotes of people saying they have student loans in a tone of buyer’s remorse, the college education, degrees et al. are strongly tied to more earnings. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with at least a bachelor’s degree make $412 dollars more on a weekly basis than those with only a high school diploma and no college attendance.

Is it worth the cost? That question needs to be answered on an individual basis, but it would not hurt if policies, state and the board could deflate the inflation of tuition, thus decreasing the bill of upward mobility in the American Dream.