Nationwide, 44 million people owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. That’s more than the gross domestic product of Russia. The average class of 2016 graduate has more than $37,000 in debt. Statistics like these have people questioning the value of higher education altogether. But that’s a mistake. You can find value in a postsecondary degree—you just need the right degree.
According to Kevin Fleming in his excellent short film, “Success in the New Economy,” half of university graduates are under-employed, with jobs that do not require the education they received. Likewise, while it may be true that the average income for “white-collar” careers is higher, that’s only average. If you have the ability to succeed as a skilled technician, but lack the ability in, say, business, you will earn much more learning a trade.
And it will cost you a lot less.
The average student loan debt for Thaddeus Stevens graduates is only about $7,000. And, more importantly, about half of all TSCT students qualify for our Stevens Grant, which covers tuition, housing, meals, tools and textbooks. These students are on the fast-track to a high-demand job with no debt as they start their career.
Students considering Stevens have an additional advantage, thanks to changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students are now able to file a FAFSA for the upcoming academic year by Oct. 1, rather than Jan. 1. Because the Stevens Grant uses federal Pell Grants to supplement the program, the early FAFSA will help us make decisions on student eligibility and put aid packages together sooner.
I’m pleased to announce that the College this year hired a new director of financial aid, Melissa Wisniewski, to help students and families navigate this sometimes complicated process. Mrs. Wisniewski comes to Stevens with more than a decade of experience in financial aid. She will be a great asset to TSCT families and prospective families, and I encourage you to reach out to her with any questions you may have.
There are also many books on the topic, including two new ones, “Student Debt” and “Game of Loans.” In particular, the “Game of Loans” authors argue that the problem is not that people borrow to invest in their futures—which they support—but that students make poor choices in education that won’t pay off for them.
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology is a solution to that problem. There is value in higher education—and a degree from Thaddeus Stevens!
Mr. DeGroft is the Dean of Enrollment Services at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.