May 1 is an important date for a lot of families.
It’s the day that many colleges require deposits as a declaration that a student will enroll in the school.
Thus, May 1 is also the day that many students and their parents decide to weigh themselves down with debt for decades.
If you haven’t already decided — and even if you have — it’s not too late to apply the advice you hear if you ever catch on fire. Protect your financial future: Stop, drop and roll.
Stop. Stop saying student loan debt is good debt. It is just debt. And it can be as weighty as any other loan.
The Princeton Review’s 2016 survey of college applicants and their parents found that 39 percent said their main worry is the amount of debt it will take to pay for the degree.
“Debt has been the biggest concern among respondents (parents and students alike) for the past three years,” according to the survey report.
Eighty-eight percent of respondents said financial aid — education loans, scholarships or grants — will be “extremely” or “very” necessary.
I implore you to run the numbers. Calculate how much debt it will take to complete the degree. How much in earnings will be needed to service the debt?
Stop measuring a kid’s potential by where he or she chooses to go to college. It’s the student, and not just the college, that makes the difference. You can succeed at any school.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers, which looks at hiring trends, conducts an annual survey asking employers what influences their decisions when hiring new graduates. The poll uses a 5-point scale, with 1 meaning no influence at all and 5 indicating extreme influence. On last year’s survey, the school that a job candidate attended scored a 2.9. Having held a leadership position in college, participating in extracurricular activities and making good grades all scored higher.
Drop. Don’t accept that a four-year university is the only choice.
Get over the impression that community college is the “13th grade.” It’s derogatory and demeaning to the students and staff of the schools.
When we malign community colleges for the type of students they draw, it is elitism at its worst. In fact, many community colleges are luring top students from high school by providing lucrative scholarships and a clear pathway to a four-year university.
Transferring credits from a community college to a four-year school is getting easier, although it still could be better. (So do some research to determine what credits transfer, and to which schools.)
The Council of Independent Colleges won a grant to develop an initiative to not just help community college graduates transfer to independent four-year liberal arts colleges and universities but succeed once they do.
In many states, community college students who obtain an associate’s degree and/or maintain a certain grade-point average after a certain amount of credited courses are automatically accepted to a state school. Community college is an economical way of taking basic college courses at a discount.
My son, a high school senior and honors student, had just two schools on his list of colleges. One was Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, which has an engineering track that was very attractive to him. The other was the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. And although he will be attending UMBC, the community college wasn’t a “safety school.” We saw it as a very viable option.
Roll. Think seriously about the consequences of taking on a lot of student loan debt.
Go to marketwatch.com and search for “student loan debt clock.” Then just watch the debt tick up $2,726 every second. It should be a sobering reminder that the debt is real — and may stay real for a very long time.
Roll your eyes when people say the amount that students are borrowing isn’t a big deal or that it’s not that bad. A survey by Citizens Bank found that college graduates 35 years and younger are spending 18 percent of their salaries just paying off their loans. And 60 percent expect to still be paying off the debt well into their 40s.
Many graduates are now having buyer’s remorse, according to the survey. Fifty-seven percent said they regret having taken out so many loans.
This past week, #collegesigningday was trending on Twitter. People have been posting pictures of themselves in spirit gear, celebrating their college choice.
Be proud of your pick. But I hope you choose wisely.
Write Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more, go to http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary.