California student debt among the lowest

Fee increases and higher tuition costs have California college students constantly protesting and shouting at the state government for the unjust rulings. However, what excuse can a student have when it is proven that by the time they graduate from a California college they are with the least college debt in the nation? A new study by the Oakland based Institute for College Access and Success found that the debt burden carried by graduates of California’s public and private not-for-profit colleges is among the lowest in the nation.

Despite recent outcry over rising tuition costs, only 51 percent of graduates took on debt, totaling on average $18,879—which is below the national average. Only Utah and Hawaii have lower average debt totals than Californian students. This report throws into stark perspective the nature of the student debt crisis in the country.

Make no mistake, $19,000 is still a substantial amount to be in debt with, but living in a state with access to relatively affordable higher education is an invaluable asset.

According to the U.S. Department of National Education Statistics, “young adults with a bachelor’s degree earned more than twice as much as those without a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2010 (i.e., 114 percent more).”  Median income for a male with a bachelor’s degree was $49,800. His peer with a high school diploma or equivalent made $32,800 on average.

Those with post graduate degrees only increased their salaries as well; the report also states “earnings for young adults with a master’s degree or higher was $54,700, some 21 percent more than the median for young adults with a bachelor’s degree.” So, getting a higher education degree will likely secure a California college student in being able to pay their debt off after graduation.

The value of a college education cannot be overstated. It not only enriches the mind, but the wallet as well, even if getting it means getting into debt.

Some might agree and point out that with such low rates, California students, like those who protested the addition of more sections at increased cost last semester here at Santa Monica College, should pause for a moment, and consider being grateful for their relatively fortunate circumstances.

However college costs continue to increase in California, and the fear as to how far it will increase is creating anxiety for students.

According to the California Post-Secondary Education Commission, “these increases come after many years of rising costs. Between 1990 and 2009, costs for a University of California student living on campus rose by 70 percent. Costs for a California State University student living with their family rose by over 80 percent in the 10-year time frame. In this period, however, median family income in California grew by only 16 percent.”

Given the importance of a degree, and the quality of life that a higher education can provide, it is imperative our governments at the local, state, and federal level, do everything they can to protect and enhance public institutions of higher learning.

It is an accepted fact that a degree can grant you a far better opportunity to make a decent living, and if colleges are too expensive to attend, then that’s like taking a potentially good life away from students.

If government claims to truly protect our interests, why is education spending a low priority for politicians confronted with astounding budget deficits?

It stands to reason that something that so clearly and so easily improves an individual’s chances to lead a quality middle class life should be unassailable.

Education funding must be protected, so that we can continue to provide affordable higher education to students. It should be the primary aim of the public and their representatives in Sacramento and Washington to guarantee that our schools have the resources they need to provide a quality education at little or no cost to all students in this country.

Californians should be proud that students have the opportunity here to improve their lives at relatively low costs. Imagine what we might accomplish if we decided to make educating our children and young adults a high priority.

Let’s make sure a college education is something that everyone can attain.