Tess Vigeland: We've devoted a lot of time to student loans on this program and we'll continue to do so. But it's worth noting while some people are graduating from college owing hundreds of thousands of dollars, he average college grad leaves school with just $24,000 of debt. That's not chump change, of course. And the overall debt load is expected to cross one trillion dollars this coming week.

Commentator Peter Morici says part of the problem lies with employers and with schools.


Peter Morici: Young people face a cruel irony. Most can't land a decent job without a college education, yet many graduates earn too little to pay off student loans. College price tags have rocketed, but more importantly, costs have jumped higher than what many graduates earn over their working lifetimes.

Many never get out of debt. Americans over 60 still owe $36 billion. Social Security checks are garnished and debt collectors are harassing borrowers in their 80s.

Employers are partly to blame. In the 1950s and 60s, it was commonplace to find folks in jobs as diverse as newspaper reporters and insurance adjustors having only a high school diploma and some employer training.

Nowadays, employers often require a few years of college or even a B.A. It's an easy way to screen applicants, but many jobs simply don't pay enough for students to work down six-figure debts.

But what students do in college also matters. A degree in engineering or nursing pays a lot more than one in French or sociology. In recent decades, states have cut higher education during hard times but only partially restored budgets when conditions improve. Community colleges, which offer some of the best technical training, and many universities, have cut their programs in engineering, nursing and the like because they're too expensive. Meantime, many students are herded into the cheaper liberal arts.

Many college-bound students aren't prepared for and don't want to take the tough majors, but that problem goes back to high school.

Our culture is also to blame. Growing up in the New York state, I studied Iroquois culture, 20th-century child labor abuses and Governor Al Smith's reforms. And these days in college, students get a steady dose of liberal ideology and are sent out to go find themselves.

No surprise. Many come to universities only to enjoy intellectually pleasing but practically useless programs and end up lost in poorly paying jobs -- adrift in a sea of debt.


Vigeland: Peter Morici teaches at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business. We want to know what you think on our Facebook page or through our contact page.

About the author

Peter Morici is a macroeconomist and professor at R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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