Why Too Many Kids Go to College.

Why Too Many Kids Go to College.

Please note – this is based on my experiences as a high school band director. My thoughts might not apply directly to all education systems in America, but I would imagine that it might for many of them!

The student loan crisis is this weird thing that the American people generally recognize, but won’t do jack crap to actually fix. Politicians use it as a hot-button topic to get votes by offering free tuition, while media outlets use it to ridicule young people that are upset about their debt (by calling them lazy and entitled).

Neither approach above is geared towards fixing the core of the problem, it’s just noise used to get elected or clicks in my opinion.

While young people continue to get crushed by the promise of their degree (and student loans), universities seemingly give the finger to everyone by building sports colosseums and continually raising tuition prices…because they can.

Government-backed student loans will continue to foot the massive bill, and kids will keep filling out applications for universities. It’s a cycle.

On a side note, If you really want to get pissed, go look up college administrator salaries and see how state-run institutions tell Johnny with $100,000 in student loan debt and a worthless degree to go screw himself while the people in charge count their cash.

Some people don’t even think the student loan crisis is a real thing. See below:

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Whether you deeply care about the student loan crisis, think it’s fake, get upset by it, or believe everyone that chose to take on student loans is a fool that’s getting what they deserve – it doesn’t make the problem any less real or any closer to being solved. It’s a serious issue for our country that isn’t stopping any time soon.

So where does this obsessive need for kids to go to college and take out loans come from? It’s pretty simple in my opinion. Grade school.


Before you get angry and start saying: “But…the parents! They should teach their kids about college costs and how to deal with tuition. Isn’t this on THEM?” 

They don’t. At least for the most part. Sorry. Let me educate you on how this actually works:

If there is one thing that shocked me as a high-school teacher, it’s that parents generally had no idea what was really going on with their kid. The thought is actually terrifying for when I have kids. Teenagers live a totally different life in school than what their parents see at home.

They cuss so much that it sounds awkward due to forcing expletives into the sentence structure, they have secret relationships when they aren’t allowed to date, they party, they have social problems at school that they NEVER talk to their parents about.

Parents would time and time again come in for teacher/parent conferences and be shocked at what their kid posted on social media, did to another student, or said to a teacher. They were usually in denial until they saw proof, and then it got awkward and they stayed in denial.


Even the BEST kids did stuff you never thought they would. It’s pretty insane really, but not totally the parents’ fault.

Students form a lot of their outlook and plans for life at schools. Their social circles, their interests, their views on the world, future careers…everything. I’m not a parent so someone can feel free to correct me; but it seemed like parents (the really good ones) tried hard to interject and guide their kids when they could, but there is only so much you can do with limited face time.

Some parents were good at it, and some totally sucked. Kinda like everything else in life I guess. The bottom line is that schools play a major factor in a kid’s early life goals.

So when a 6th grade campus starts putting college banners in the hallways for 10 year olds, or high schools have end of the year “college acceptance” parties for fresh student loan prospects, the kids take notice.

Over and over and over, students are bombarded with college advertisements posted in the hallways, in the counselor’s office, and even on the outside of their teacher’s door. Schools systematically program kids to feel that college is the only way. There is rarely trade school talk or entrepreneurship classes. It’s either college or you’re a failure in the eyes of the public education system.

Schools push kids towards college because they think they are doing the right thing…and a lot of the time they still are.

Even as a person that had student loans and know how much they suck, I still believe in the process. It’s an investment that can pay off…IF you get a worthwhile degree. But, our culture simultaneously tells kids to be whatever the hell they want in life while public schools push them towards college. It’s a confused recipe for disaster (insert whatever played out gender studies or liberal arts degrees joke here).

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Are there other factors involved? Probably, but in my few years of being a high school teacher I learned a lot about why students feel so driven to go to college even if they have no idea how to pay for it.

This is why I’m a staunch advocate of better financial education in public schools. If the education machine is going to push kids towards college like they’re on a student loan conveyor belt, shouldn’t they make sure kids are prepared to handle massive, mortgage-level debt?

The student loan crisis is complicated – let me know how you think it can be fixed. Here are some fun opinions (caution: language) from a Facebook post I did recently. Enjoy!


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Live differently. Your bank accounts will thank me later. ~ M$M


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20 comments… add one
  • The Green Swan Jun 9, 2016, 12:44 pm

    This is a very loaded topic. I don’t have much sympathy for those who exit college with student debt. They need to pay it just like those who pay for college without taking on debt. And as to whether a degree is worth a lot or not, irrespective of whether they are paid with student loans or paid without taking on debt, is an entirely different issue. You can have empathy for those kids who paid a ton for degrees worth less than others, but that too is their own choice. Not sure what you can do about that though, unless you are suggesting college should be cheaper for a teacher degree than a business degree?

    But I agree with what I think is the main point of your post in that there are alternatives to college. Apprenticeships or 2-year degrees can offer promising career paths as well.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 10, 2016, 8:33 am

      Yes, it is a loaded topic. I paid off my debt, so I have no problem saying that people should do that as well. My concerns are the amount of people that are taking out massive debt for college, the continual rise in tuition costs, and the broken system that keeps pushing students to college without preparing them for the financial implications.

      • The Green Swan Jun 13, 2016, 1:19 pm

        I agree. It is a broken system! Unfortunately, any overhaul will be very difficult and probably take forever. Not to get to political, but I think the federal government needs to give up more control back to the states to be responsible for its education system. Usually what comes from states having control is more unique “fixes” to the various problems.

  • Katie - More Money For Me Jun 10, 2016, 9:46 am

    I agree with a lot of your thoughts. Parents and high schools are the top reasons why my friends went to college, not a personal desire to learn more or earn a certain degree. I was always impressed by the parents who made their kids delay college by at least a year before letting them choose a school and degree.

    I graduated from a fancy private university with zero debt *only* because my parents took full financial responsibility for my education, and they were in a great place financially to do that (they did not go into debt either). I will always be grateful for this. On the other hand, if I had been responsible for paying for my education, I would have either gone to a very inexpensive school, or skipped college in favor of self-education, internships, and entrepreneurship.

    I know that many people hold the opinion that college is a one-of-a-kind ticket to better opportunities and opens a lot of doors. However, that has not been my experience. I delayed college and ran an organization while taking writing and language classes, as well as doing a lot of non-degree education while also getting my degree, and this combination of experiences taught me at least as much as my official degree.

    While I definitely have sympathy for my peers who are buried in debt, I think the root of the problem is a lack of financial education in high school (and earlier), not in their personal decision to take on so much debt. I have friends whose student loans amounted to 5x their (very low) starting salaries in their chosen careers. From a numbers perspective, that was a pretty awful idea. While some people may opt for that situation even after learning about the impact of such debt, I think a huge number would make a different choice when faced with the financial reality.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 10, 2016, 10:34 am

      You nailed it. It’s not that kids (and I use KIDS because that is what they are when they pick their schools) are dumb for taking out debt and deserve the bed they lie in. They literally don’t know any better. I watched 17 year old KIDS choose colleges and fill out FAFSA applications when they had no idea how they would pay for college or why they were really even going.

      The schools and parents told them that they had to go if they wanted to “make it” in this world, and then didn’t teach them jack about how to manage their potential mortgage-like debt. It’s sad, and something that needs to be fixed with more than “they should just pay it back”.

  • FinanceSuperhero Jun 10, 2016, 1:42 pm

    I agree with The Green Swan’s reasoning above, so no need to rehash my thoughts. However, I think this worth noting just exactly how out of control college tuition is becoming:

    “According to The College Board®, the average 2014-2015 tuition increase was 3.7 percent at private colleges, and 2.9 percent at public universities. However, looking back at the last decade, the 10-year historical rate of increase is approximately 5 percent.”

    5 percent is a crime, any way you try to spin it.

  • Hannah Jun 11, 2016, 2:57 pm

    I think that too many people believe that college gives them the skills they need to earn a lot of money without realizing that for many people a college degree is simply a generic credential that many other people have too. Earning a high income these days requires either specialization or entrepreneurship. In some cases, college helps with the former, but it’s no guarantee.

    I was lucky that my college degree got me into a field (business intelligence) where I was able to specialize after the fact. Unfortunately, most degree recipients don’t get so lucky.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 11, 2016, 3:31 pm

      Couldn’t agree more – my college degree allowed me to get my first job (as a band director), but I really got the job because of other experience I had outside of college that made me a higher quality candidate. I’ve seen a lot of people get the same degree I did and struggle to find work.

  • John Jun 12, 2016, 1:30 am

    Thank you for digging deep into this subject. I’ve touched on it in a few of my posts. The last couple weeks I’ve seen a lot of posts and articles about the same topic. Several of my closest friends work in the ‘trades’ and make a lot more money than I do. My ceiling might be higher because I have a Finance degree, but working with your hands certainly pays well too!

    It’s really no surprise that we are pumped full of the whole “you must go to college” agenda every since grade school. This idea is really put in place to further the business that is colleges and universities. Despite popular belief, colleges and universities are running a business. Just because the IRS classifies them as non-profit doesn’t make them a business.

    Nice post!

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 12, 2016, 11:56 am

      Thanks John – I agree, they do seem to run much more like a for-profit than non! I know that in my area, HVAC people and plumbers are in demand. I even considered starting a swimming pool company before I started M$M. TONS of opportunity out there.

  • Anonymous Jun 17, 2016, 10:15 am

    There is so much meat to address in this topic, I feel like I need to bring the potato salad to the cookout and weigh in. I don’t think it’s the majority of students fault who land into student loan debt, especially when it’s been ingrained in their heads that student loan debt is good debt. I would be rich if someone paid me for every time I heard that line. Also, coming from my background, I was financially illiterate and taught that debt was normal and everyone owes someone. You just get a job and make the payments. When I went to college, that’s very well what I planned to do. Go to school to better myself, get a job, and make min payments. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I learned the proper principles regarding credit, debt, and money. There are more out there like me. Now does this mean we get a pass, heck no! I plan to pay it back, but it’s not easy. I, for one, have empathy for anyone in debt and it’s easy for some to ridicule (like the fb know it all’s), but until you have walked a few miLe in debt heavy mules, they could never grasp the situation and misunderstanding that many of these folks have about how personal finances really work.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 17, 2016, 12:03 pm

      I agree – I saw it over and over again with my students. I hated it. Ignorant people love to say that college students are adults and should deal with the consequences, but they aren’t making these financial decisions when they are adults. The public schools start them at 10 years old or younger! They are just carrying out a plan that was sold to them their entire schooling careers.

      Usually the non-sympathizers are people that made a choice to not go to college, paid their debt back and forgot what it was like to have it, or people who’s parents paid.

      • Latoya @ Life and a Budget Jun 17, 2016, 1:15 pm

        Exactly! I’m not sure why it says I’m anonymous, but I’m not trying to be:) I’m Latoya from Life and a Budget and I’m so glad I ran across this today as you’ve inspired some discussion for my next article that deals with student loans and higher education.

  • Melissa Jun 21, 2016, 1:31 pm

    Gotta love the people who can barely spell saying a college degree isn’t worth it… 😉 I have to remember to subscribe to your blog – my husband is a teacher, and you and your wife remind me so much of us with the debt payoff and trying to live on a fairly low salary. I totally agree with you about how parents have no idea what is going on with their kids – it’s really scary!

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 21, 2016, 2:37 pm

      Yep – nuts!

    • Frugal Millennial Sep 22, 2016, 6:27 pm

      It is interesting that those who can barely spell criticize those who have student loan debt and call them stupid. I think the decision whether or not to take on student loan debt often has very little to do with intelligence and much more to do with financial education. There are many well-educated, highly intelligent individuals with medical degrees, law degrees, and other advanced degrees who are buried in debt.

      • Millennial Money Man Sep 22, 2016, 9:01 pm

        Haha yeah I get some crazy Facebook comments sometimes! Student loans are definitely polarizing. I still don’t think they are a bad investment if you get a degree that will land a decent job.

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