Graduation time in America

Published 10:34 am Friday, May 17, 2019

By Glenn Mollette

Contributing Columnist

Everyone looks forward to graduation. For the high school senior it seemed like the day would never come. The college graduate breathes a sigh of relief that several years of hard work have finally passed. The medical, law, or other various post college graduate may have spent more than one third of their lives achieving their milestone commencement ceremony. Families rejoice at the accomplishment and the graduate is now ready to embark on what the education has been all about – work and often lots of debt to repay.

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Statistics vary on educational debt in America. I’ve read sources that say the average college graduate has debt over $50,000 and some stats are closer to $40,000 with some graduates having debt over $100,000. Most sources seem to agree that about 70 percent of college graduates have debt and over 40 million Americans owe $1.4 trillion in student loans.

The Federal Reserve reports there are 6.8 million student loan borrowers between the ages of 40 and 49 and that these graduates collectively are $229.6 billion in debt. This means that Americans in their forties with debt from student loans have an average balance of $33,765. The result of this is a decrease in home ownership and the probability that retirement will be pushed up to age 75 for many Americans.

High school seniors should spend some time talking with parents and high school counselors. College is not for everyone. Seriously consider spending the first year at a community college. That is typically a savings of thousands of dollars. Also, seriously consider a trade school. Trade school studies can typically be completed in one to two years. The savings has been estimated to be as much as $75,000 compared to a four-year degree. You will also have a two-year early entry into the workforce. On average you’ll earn $10,000 to $15,000 less than average college graduates but you’ll have less debt and you might even have better job security. Your job as an electrician, plumber, machinist, pharmacy technician, dental hygienist and many others will keep you in the work force as long as you want to work.

I’m grateful I had the opportunity to complete a college degree and beyond. I wanted to and it’s worked out great for me. A college education is a very rewarding option for many of America’s young adults but not everybody. Think about it. Make a plan. Talk to others. Don’t just arbitrarily go into debt. If you have a dream and a passion that a college degree will help you fulfill then you won’t feel so bad paying off debt. If you are clueless about how you will use your college degree then sit down with someone and talk about your life, your goals and your best avenue of achieving them.

It’s your life and your future. Make the best of it and happy graduation!

Dr. Glenn Mollette is president of Newburgh Theological Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana. Contact him at Learn more at His Facebook page is at