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Specializing Earlier Would Ease College Burden


A lot of people say that college costs a lot, and it’s true for many schools. It costs a lot, and it’s the reason for the student debt problem in the U.S. College students go into debt because they have to pay money for school, and don’t have enough money. There might be some solutions to this problem, rather than just watching as the debt rises.

Here’s the problem: college costs so much that it leaves many students in deep debt; the average 2016 college graduate owed $37,172. That’s up more than 5 percent from last year, and debt is rising alarmingly. High college prices can leave students worried about their future, or discouraged from going to college.

I’m already worried about owing lots of money after college. There’s a definite problem with this higher education system. Money for college is a big barrier for some who want to realize their dreams; a high school diploma can’t get you every job. There’s also an ever-widening wage gap in America, and expensive education is a factor. People who graduate from high school and don’t go to college usually get lower paying jobs, and don’t have much hope of climbing up the economic ladder, earning 56 percent less than college graduates.

There are a couple of options that might be considered to fix this problem. First, high school should become entirely specialized. Students would learn everything about their jobs and how to do them in high school. There would be no need for college, so no student debt at all. High school graduates wouldn’t need to learn much else; they would go to their jobs directly from high school. There could be apprenticeships after that if more school was needed, and students could take a skills-based test to graduate from high school.

Colleges would turn into public high schools and make more room for students. Some may say that middle school is too early for a career choice. But, classes are already chosen in high school right now, students are ready to choose their careers, and if they really need to, they could go back and change their career path.

The only way that something like specialized high school can be accomplished is by going to the state and federal governments and asking for change. Maybe some changes can be made in the right direction, just not as drastic as this. There are other smaller-scale options on the table that might fix this problem.

If community colleges were free, the problem would be smaller. Or, if the state forgave student loan debt, that would definitely be a step in the right direction. Students whose debt is forgiven would then invest in the economy by having more money to buy what they need, and money could be paid back to the state via taxes. But, steps would still have to be made to prevent more student debt, because the state can’t forgive students’ debt forever. That would be unsustainable, so maybe both solutions can work together. We could forgive student loan debt now, and then specialize our schools.

This is something that could fix this problem and would have amazing benefits everywhere. Everyone would gain from it. The wage gap would drop as adults got higher-paying jobs, and students would save a lot of money. College tuition is a big problem, and something has to be done, or the U.S. will keep spiraling into more debt.

Tommaso Wheeler is a student at Orono High School. He produced this piece as part of the 2017 Raise Your Voice Workshop in Orono sponsored by Maine Public and the Maine Writing Project.