Attending college is a more uncertain experience today

Within a few years, after some short stints at low paying jobs and a lot of unanswered applications, she decided to look for a job in which she’d put to use the skills she’d picked up before college, working on computers. Soon, she landed a job in tech support for a charter school in Philadelphia.”I just need to forget my degree,” she said.

One thing she can’t forget, however: her student debt, which is now over $70,000, and stops her, she said, from buying a house or starting a family. “I can’t return the degree,” she said, “I just have to sit here and pay $250 a month for the rest of my life.”

ATTENDING COLLEGE HAS BECOME A MORE DIFFICULT and uncertain experience for many people. One year at a nonprofit, four-year private college, including tuition, room and board, currently costs $48,510, compared with $22,240 in the 2000-2001 academic year. If annual increases had simply tracked the inflation rate since then, it would be at $32,228.

Meanwhile, the median family income, after accounting for inflation, was $59,039 in 2016, little different than in 2000 ($58,544).

“Family income has been flat, so their ability to pay for college has not changed even as college costs have increased,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of SavingForCollege.com.

As a result, students and their parents are taking on more debt. The average student now graduates $30,000 in the hole, compared with $10,000 in the early 1990s. Many people borrow more than they can repay, risking their financial futures. By 2023, nearly 40 percent of borrowers are expected to default on their student loans, an event that only increases their debt and devastates their credit.

And as more people go to college, some experts say the value of a bachelor’s degree has faded. Starting salaries for new college graduates have grown less than 1 percent over the last two years, remaining at around $50,000. A decade after leaving school, more than 1 in 5 college graduates are working in a job that doesn’t even require a degree.

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