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’Good news’ or our conundrum?

 

Note: A version of this ran in the Wilson County News on July 11, 2012.

Statistics show that close to half a million Texans will assume student loans for the coming school year, and they can thank Congress for coming to their rescue. Or not.

Congress just passed a bill that included provisions to keep interest rates on college loans at the current 3.4 percent instead of doubling to 6.8 percent, which would have been the case without this legislation.

“At a time when student debt is ballooning,” Congressman Henry Cuellar wrote in a Congressional Report, “students can enter the upcoming school year with the security of less expensive monthly loan payments.”

Obviously, Cuellar is not alone in promoting student loans. The majority in Congress has accepted that student debts are a necessary ingredient in getting a college education. Unfortunately there weren’t enough conservatives in Washington willing to take the risk of even being perceived as opposing assistance for middle class students.

Perhaps it’s time to ask if we are shortchanging them by encouraging them to take on debts instead of jobs.

But, you say, education is an investment in our country’s future. Especially when it comes to investing in young people, conventional wisdom says that investments help keep America competitive. We must make sure that kids get the education they need to succeed. “It’s smart to keep college affordable,” wrote Cuellar, but by teaching kids they are destined to go into debt to get a college education, many graduate with bills so large that the “less expensive monthly payments” will not help. That’s especially so when they graduate and can’t find a job.

Instead of being corralled into taking out student loans and staying on their parents’ insurance until age 26, perhaps they would be better off if given alternatives, such as getting a job.

Aside from working their way through college, it is a fact that not everyone needs a college degree. There are wonderful jobs within the trades, such as plumbers, aircraft mechanics, beauticians, truck drivers, construction workers, electricians, technicians, and mechanics.

Someone has to fix things that quit working. Things like our heating and air conditioning systems. We all need these services, so why not encourage young people to consider something they might actually enjoy, instead of encouraging they incur debts to get a degree that doesn’t necessarily lead to employment?

If you have a skill that will always be in demand, regardless of the economy, you might be better off than having a degree for which there is no job. Trade skills cannot be outsourced.

Instead of accepting a defeatist attitude about jobs that “only illegals” will do, we should be teaching kids that manual labor is honorable. We need people to haul our trash and clean our schools, so why do we demean those professions? It seems to me that we have created our own conundrum.

 
 
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