Dr. W. Keith Campbell, author, professor, and speaker on narcissism, society, and generational change, tweeted the following on February 18, 2020:

Question on college:

Daughter #1 receives nice letter from Yale saying to apply. Includes cost calculator. Cost for her is $306,000.

If she invests 306K and surfs for 30 years she ends up with 2.5 million (age 48), 5 mil at 56 and easy 10 mil at 65.

Why would she pick Yale?

In 55 words Dr. Campbell painted the college loan debt epidemic.

Students are graduating with mountains of student loan debt, and the issue is that their loans are not proportional to their post-college income. Too often college degrees lead to careers that barely cover rent, let alone astronomical college debt.

So, why do youth rack up student loan debt that their future careers will struggle to support? Well, as one person who replied to Dr. Campbell’s tweet says, “BecAuse iT’s YaLE!!!!” Too bad that person didn’t spend less time changing their tweet’s letter capitalization and adding exclamation marks and more time considering why a college’s reputation outweighs someone’s ability to pay for that particular college.

Status is an interesting concept and in this conversation, it represents the root of poor decision-making. Making any decision, whether it’s as small as your choice of movie for the evening or as large as your post-high school pursuits, because of its societal status is a recipe for disaster. It’s no longer “the pursuit of happiness”, as the Declaration of Independence says, that students pursue. Instead, it’s the pursuit of societal approval.

This is not an argument for or against college. This is a conversation about understanding every post-high school option and consequences, good and bad. Someone with a degree to teach elementary education has lesser capabilities to pay back student debt than someone with a doctorate degree and a specialization in brain surgery. Do not get hung up on attending a particular college or post-high school option before you’ve even determined your career path and the income likely to be found in that particular field.

Changing society’s mindset back to college as one of many great post-secondary options, not the end-all-be-all, and lifting skilled trades and manufacturing back on to an evenly respected post-secondary playing field starts with the environment we create for children.

Instead of children growing up hearing that one college is better than another, children should grow up thinking that they should attend the college best suited for their degree path and that will leave them with minimal college debt. Instead of children growing up hearing “when you go to college one day…” and “before you know it, you’ll be at college” comments, let them hear “advanced training doesn’t always mean college” and “some career paths require college while others don’t.”

Here’s the truth. I know a man who pursued a career in electrical work and on top of that, became fire chief of his hometown. He never went to college and yet, he has more advanced training and courses under his belt than those who completed a four-year degree. On top of this, he not only makes more than most college graduates, he hasn’t spent a dime on student loans and most importantly, is happy.

The moral of the story is that some career paths require a college education, such as nursing, education, and engineering. And if youth choose one of those college-required paths, they need help understanding how to earn that degree with minimum debt. However, if youth desire non-college paths then they should be just as supported, encouraged, and respected.

At the end of the day, our world needs everyone. We wouldn’t survive without nurses, and we wouldn’t survive without plumbers, farmers, and welders. The key is to pursue what fulfills you, without being biased by societal pressures and also while understanding what debt you can afford.

Author: Evelyn Lindell