Student Loan Debt Hell: 21 Statistics That Will Make You Think Twice About Going To College

ilene's picture

Courtesy of Michael Snyder at Economic Collapse

Is going to college a worthwhile investment?  Is the education that our young people are receiving at our colleges and universities really worth all of the time, money and effort that is required?  Decades ago, a college education was quite inexpensive and it was almost an automatic ticket to the middle class.  But today all of that has changed. 

At this point, college education is a big business.  There are currently more than 18 million students enrolled at the nearly 5,000 colleges and universities currently in operation throughout the United States.  There are quite a few "institutions of higher learning" that now charge $40,000 or even $50,000 a year for tuition.  That does not even count room and board and other living expenses.  Meanwhile, as you will see from the statistics posted below, the quality of education at our colleges and universities has deteriorated badly.  When graduation finally arrives, many of our college students have actually learned very little, they find themselves unable to get good jobs and yet they end up trapped in student loan debt hell for essentially the rest of their lives.

Across America today, "guidance counselors" are pushing millions of high school students to go to the very best colleges that they can get into, but they rarely warn them about how much it is going to cost or about the sad reality that they could end up being burdened by massive debt loads for decades to come.

Yes, college is a ton of fun and it is a really unique experience.  If you can get someone else to pay for it then you should definitely consider going.

There are also many careers which absolutely require a college degree.  Depending on your career goals, you may not have much of a choice of whether to go to college or not.

But that doesn't mean that you have to go to student loan debt hell.

You don't have to go to the most expensive school that you can get into.

You don't have to take out huge student loans.

There is no shame in picking a school based on affordability.

The truth is that pretty much wherever you go to school the quality of the education is going to be rather pathetic.  A highly trained cat could pass most college courses in the United States today.

Personally, I have had the chance to spend quite a number of years on college campuses.  I enjoyed my time and I have some pretty pieces of parchment to put up on the wall.  I have seen with my own eyes what goes on at our institutions of higher learning.  In a previous article, I described what life is like for most "average students" enrolled in our colleges and universities today....

The vast majority of college students in America spend two to four hours a day in the classroom and maybe an hour or two outside the classroom studying. The remainder of the time these "students" are out drinking beer, partying, chasing after sex partners, going to sporting events, playing video games, hanging out with friends, chatting on Facebook or getting into trouble. When they say that college is the most fun that most people will ever have in their lives they mean it. It is basically one huge party.

If you are a parent and you are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars every year to pay for college you need to know the truth.

You are being ripped off.

Sadly, a college education just is not that good of an investment anymore.  Tuition costs have absolutely skyrocketed even as the quality of education has plummeted.

A college education is not worth getting locked into crippling student loan payments for the next 30 years.

Even many university professors are now acknowledging that student loan debt has become a horrific societal problem. Just check out what one professor was quoted as saying in a recent article in The Huffington Post....

“Thirty years ago, college was a wise, modest investment,” says Fabio Rojas, a professor of sociology at Indiana University. He studies the politics of higher education. “Now, it’s a lifetime lock-in, an albatross you can’t escape.”

Anyone that is thinking of going to college needs to do a cost/benefit analysis.

Is it really going to be worth it?

For some people the answer will be "yes" and for some people the answer will be "no".

But sadly, hardly anyone that goes to college these days gets a "good" education.

To get an idea of just how "dumbed down" we have become as a nation, just check out this Harvard entrance exam from 1869.

I wouldn't have a prayer of passing that exam.

What about you?

We really do need to rethink our approach to higher education in this country.

Posted below are 21 statistics about college tuition, student loan debt and the quality of college education in the United States....

#1 Since 1978, the cost of college tuition in the United States has gone up by over 900 percent.

#2 In 2010, the average college graduate had accumulated approximately $25,000 in student loan debt by graduation day.

#3 Approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loans.

#4 Americans have accumulated well over $900 billion in student loan debt. That figure is higher than the total amount of credit card debt in the United States.

#5 The typical U.S. college student spends less than 30 hours a week on academics.

#6 According to very extensive research detailed in a new book entitled "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses", 45 percent of U.S. college students exhibit "no significant gains in learning" after two years in college.

#7 Today, college students spend approximately 50% less time studying than U.S. college students did just a few decades ago.

#8 35% of U.S. college students spend 5 hours or less studying per week.

#9 50% of U.S. college students have never taken a class where they had to write more than 20 pages.

#10 32% of U.S. college students have never taken a class where they had to read more than 40 pages in a week.

#11 U.S. college students spend 24% of their time sleeping, 51% of their time socializing and 7% of their time studying.

#12 Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor's degree within four years.

#13 Nearly half of all the graduate science students enrolled at colleges and universities in the United States are foreigners.

#14 According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for college graduates younger than 25 years old was 9.3 percent in 2010.

#15 One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don't even require college degrees.

#16 In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.

#17 In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

#18 In the United States today, approximately 365,000 cashiers have college degrees.

#19 In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.

#20 Once they get out into the "real world", 70% of college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the "real world" while they were still in school.

#21 Approximately 14 percent of all students that graduate with student loan debt end up defaulting within 3 years of making their first student loan payment.

There are millions of young college graduates running around out there that are wondering where all of the "good jobs" are.  All of their lives they were promised that if they worked really hard and got good grades that the system would reward them.

Sometimes when you do everything right you still can't get a job. A while back The Huffington Post featured the story of Kyle Daley - a highly qualified UCLA graduate who had been unemployed for 19 months at the time....

I spent my time at UCLA preparing for the outside world. I had internships in congressional offices, political action committees, non-profits and even as a personal intern to a successful venture capitalist. These weren't the run-of-the-mill office internships; I worked in marketing, press relations, research and analysis. Additionally, the mayor and city council of my hometown appointed me to serve on two citywide governing bodies, the planning commission and the open government commission. I used to think that given my experience, finding work after graduation would be easy.

At this point, however, looking for a job is my job. I recently counted the number of job applications I have sent out over the past year -- it amounts to several hundred. I have tried to find part-time work at local stores or restaurants, only to be turned away. Apparently, having a college degree implies that I might bail out quickly when a better opportunity comes along.

The sad truth is that a college degree is not an automatic ticket to the middle class any longer.

But for millions of young Americans a college degree is an automatic ticket to student loan debt hell.

Student loan debt is one of the most insidious forms of debt.  You can't get away from student loan debt no matter what you do.  Federal bankruptcy law makes it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debts, and many recent grads end up with loan payments that absolutely devastate them financially at a time when they are struggling to get on their feet and make something of themselves.

So are you still sure that you want to go to college?

Another open secret is that most of our colleges and universities are little more than indoctrination centers.  Most people would be absolutely shocked at how much unfiltered propaganda is being pounded into the heads of our young people.

At most colleges and universities, when it comes to the "big questions" there is a "right answer" and there is virtually no discussion of any other alternatives.

In most fields there is an "orthodoxy" that you had better adhere to if you want to get good grades.

Let's just say that "independent thought" and "critical thinking" are not really encouraged at most of our institutions of higher learning.

Am I bitter because I didn't do well?  No, I actually did extremely well in school.  I have seen the system from the inside.  I know how it works.

It is a giant fraud.

If you want to go to college because you want to have a good time or because it will help you get your career started then by all means go for it.

Just realize what you are signing up for.

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OldPhart's picture

See my post above.  It was determined that "business" was a dispicable activity...prone to greed, profit taking, self interest, and tax avoidance.  As a result the formerly Great State of Kawlifawnya determined that those perverts interested in business degrees must be socially engineered through higher education.  The evils of business must be hammered (I said, HAMMERED!) into the vile, corrupt youth interested in finance, accounting, operations management, etc.  They must be taught 'business ethics', they must acknowledge the constant evils of corporate culture, they must revere woman as the superior creature in all fields regardless of capability, understand that only business is responsible for all ecological disasters and pollution, and that entreprenuers are enemies of the State.

Furthermore, there is nothing more holy than a state worker other than a state teacher, with sainthood bestowed on state college professors and administrators.

You're right, no bullshit is stupider than that which is taught in business schools.


sun tzu's picture

Nobody can make a person dumb. It is up to the person to be dumb. Reading Mein Kampf can't make you become a Nazi and reading Das Kapital can't make you become a Communist. 

theopco's picture

And reading the Art of War does not make you a strategist

Hot Piece of Bass's picture

This is why I financed my degree by doing lots of medical testing. 

I got a degree, super white teeth and three very shapely testicles to show for it.

SilverIsKing's picture

Are you the guy with the blueberry "shaped" testicles?

OldPhart's picture


Beancounter's picture

I hear you.  I overcame my fear of basal body temperature thermometers.  I can also sleep with wires attached to my forehead.  

lunaticfringe's picture

Yea, me too. I can smell through my ear and when I lose a tooth, a new one grows in immediately.

disabledvet's picture

one sentence:  "you must repay that debt."  i hate to say this but DO NOT go to school if you can't pay cash.

OldPhart's picture

Try going to college "later" in life, at 35 or so, and having to sit through the bullshit and propaganda without storming to the front of the room to beat the shit out of the lying, communist mother fucker that insists that the "lesson" they spew is the facts.

Or the male-bashing 101, corporate male bashing 101, religion bashing 101, white male bashing 101 required classes of the California State University system (I'm told that these have been "enhanced".)  I had to fucking PAY for these classes to get a damned degree.

WORSE, sitting in a stall, taking a shit, near the Education School (where they teach "teachers") and hearing dumbasses complaining that they can't pass remedial math, remedial reading....jesus fucking christ, but they got their credential to be substitute teachers!

It's been nearly 20 years, but college still fucking pisses me off.  Not that there weren't one or two OUTSTANDING professors at ol' Commuter U in the Business School.

Tumbleweed Tech (community college) was an eye-opener, too.  That is until I realized that the vast majority of 'students' were there for a grant check and were never seen again.  Made it a bitch to enroll in classes.

But to go through it paying cash, with 27 or 24 units per semester/quarter, while cleaning carpets and feeding a family and watching the thousands of literal idiots sucking down my tax dollars as students and fucking teachers/professors just ruined the whole romance of college for me.

If you have to take a loan for college, you've already fucked up and took the wrong path.  You're an automatic loser.  Don't come to me looking for a job.

malek's picture

Sorry, I went through a European education path. Now ended up on the left coast a few years ago...
So can you elaborate a bit on "the male-bashing 101, corporate male bashing 101, religion bashing 101, white male bashing 101 required classes of the California State University system" for me? What courses do you mean? Are they compulsory no matter what you're studying??

OldPhart's picture

It's been a while, but there were four courses and they were required in business administration.  I think some or all were also required by the other school of studies, depending on which you were in.

#1 was similar to Woman's Studies.  In general (there were only four textbooks I didn't keep, guess which ones) it was upper division, one quarter class.  At the time the class itself was $150 or so and the book was over $100.  It traced how women have been second class citizens throughout the history of the United States, only becoming nearly real citizens after gaining suffrage and birth control.  However, "the struggle" continues due to glass ceilings, sexual harrassment, etc.  Men are evil, dirty pigs and any interaction between the sexes in a business setting is grounds to file a sexual harrassment it's a good idea for any woman to carefully check herself for mental rape if any man glances at her.  (This is seriously some of the stuff that was covered, it was beyond bizarre.)

#2 Minority Studies.  Required reading was Malcolm X.  His novel actually was interesting.  Classtime was lectures on how discrimination pervades every possible civil exchange between human beings (I'm paraphrasing because the professor was a black lady who was free to use the most derogatory language.)  Guest lecturers were minority business owners and millionairres that would come in and describe how the horrible treatment kept them from acheiving their dreams.  We had a black professor making in excess of $150 k per year, a Latino Businessman who made over $3 million that year, a Japanese Professor from another school who talked about the evils perpetrated during WWII and how his family was moved...scratch that, I asked him, since he was my age, how he was affected and the answer revealed his family was in Japan at the time and he was relating a story about some people he knew and had made it personal.  It went on.  It finally came time for a white viewpoint, and yours truely was selected.  I asked for a show of hands for everyone that had ever been on welfare or got food stamps.  No one responded.  So I said, "Am I the only one?" and sat down.

#3 was environmental studies.  There the line was that all pollution was the direct result of manufacturing.  In S Calif, the very air we breathed had been recently been polluted to levels never seen before by factory emissions, dust from mining, cement manufacturing, land harmed by scraping and paving, etc.  Thing was, and this is were I got fucking hot, in the 70's you couldn't go outside because smog was so bad and that was primarily from cars not factories.  Today's air quality is probably better than spanish mission days.  There's a reason the San Berdoo/LA Basin was called "Valley of Smoke" by the original indians.  Also, the dust has been minimized because the open deserts and former orange groves, vineyards, and other crops have been paved over or layered with grass for houses.

(On a note of interest, we had a change of professor after the first day.  The original guy spent the first class as a "get to know you" session where he explained that he was a specialist in workplace hazards and some sort of occupational health/environmental bullshit.  He's hobby was woodworking and he proudly explained how safe he worked and how he had set his woodshop up as a model for work place safety.  He was replaced when he cut his palm off that evening.)

#4 Myth and Mythology.  A sort of comparative religion study covering the historically repeating cycle of the sun gods down through the ages to it's current form of christianity. (Islam was not covered for some reason)  Ethics and morality were concepts that religion did not address and "the class" was to focus on current social forms of morality and ethics....stress placed on current and legal environment.  In other words, only law and social engineering will force one to observe ethics rather than personal convictions.

Those are the four classes in a nutshell.  Each one had at least one $100 book (one of those, White Male Bashing, was $100 photocopied papers written by the professor) plus cost of the class itself.  Not to mention the additional time required to read the material to be able to participate in the discussions and what other written work was demanded.

A quarter class was four units.  I figured these to be make work and blocked most of them during the quarter I did 28 units.  Three real business classes on top...Marketing, Auditing 1, and Finance 1. 

Since these four were 'gotcha' classes it turned out that I had to spend an inordinate amount of time studying for those compared to the business classes.  I was an older student at 35 or so, and I was frequently the target...that, plus I'm pretty outspoken on my own.

The end result was that there was NO way I was going to get anything better than a B in Male Bashing and nothing better than a C in White Male my overall GPA slipped from 3.9 to a little over 3.7.

But I did get my AA, AS, BS and most of my MBA done in 3 years and I took every undergrad accounting class that was available..  I should mention that after paying for four classes, you could add others for no tuition, just cost of the books.  Once I learned this and passed the initial probation I double loaded every session.


I should mention this was California State University San Bernardino aka Commuter U circa 1995.

malek's picture

Outstanding and mind-boggling essay, OP!

I'll keep that in mind (and save it electronically), for when I'll have kids going to college someday.
Thank you so much once more!!!

Dr. Impossible's picture

...Kwanza?!?!?..or better Ebonics 101?

Dr. Impossible's picture

"Don't come to me looking for a job."

as a 3x MBA receiver from the S.H.K.U.(School of Hard Knocks, for u edgeemakated folk), International currency trader, volunteer researcher, and tech. chart reader to the local NFP investor community.

i totally see your point...its very difficult to find the college type that want to any price. i had just ran an add in Elkhart, IN., the town MSNBC's crisis headquarters is located. Offering $8-22 an hour, OJT, no experience necessary. for people wanting to work. TWENTY TWO DOLLARS AN HOUR...and ZERO replies. ffs when i was a HS drop-out, killing myself. working as a pharmaceutical chemical compounder..i earned $8 an hour.....$22 to walk with a lawnmower and pick up yard waste....and still no takers..hell, i was gonna sell upwards of 15% of my gold holdings to pay these tards...i tried getting my community back to work...they refused!!! LET THEM EAT CAKE!!!

so, now its been degree=negitive productivity...for life!

..can't even bid thier work as they refuse to preform...


GreenSideUp's picture

I'd take that work--I do have a college degree (+ a PhD from The School of Hard Knocks, lol) but I'm not afraid of work (I'm mowing lawns now to pick up extra FRNs).  I'm "old" and old school though.  Young folk (including my own spoiled kids) think they're too good to get their hands dirty or do physical labor.  It's no wonder so many of them are on anti-depressants.  I find more satisfaction in "dirty work" than I did in any desk job I've ever had.  

Soul Train's picture

good post by OldPhart and I hope you also appreciated mine on one of the last career paths available - the military.

Notice that OldPhart just said it the way it is - no political correctness - he tells the truth.

The white male is the most persecuted class in American society today. And everyone in the system is jumping on the bandwagon to tear him down. It's sad to see the white males who have withdrawn and defeated. Meanwhile, the handout thugs relish it - misery loves company. Trash society and fighting endless foreign wars without real metrics. Sure sign of moral disease.

Interesting statistics on lesbians - It's no wonder there are so many more % lesbians out there now. It's documented folks. Can you figure out the root cause? I'd be interested in comments.



Henry Chinaski's picture

Bald white males have it the worst.  Baldism is the dirty little secret of our society.

Ruffcut's picture

That's why there are hats. My collection is vast. But it is smoother and less resistence when I stick my head up my ass.

Toga party is over. "wanna buy my textbook?, need beer."

Textbooks are such a scam in themselves. My milk has a longer shelf life.

Soul Train's picture

Hope you get the gist of the following sarcasm:

Best just for everybody to enroll in the military.

That's what America does best. When we need something, we just roam around the world and beat the fuck out of everybody until they give it to us.

And the Federal Government would have less worries, since we would all be conscripted.

Utopia for the banksters and the Federal Reserve money cartel.

God bless our soldiers in harm's way in Afghanistan and Iraq and everywhere else in the world. God bless freedom fighters. God bless democracy (even though America is a republic, not a democracy - but democracy still sounds good).

You can get a much better job and secure career in the military - plus full benefits, health insurance, full old fashioned pensioned retirement after only 20 years, and all sorts of other benefits. And if you're real lucky, you can become a real well paid military contractor afterwards and still draw your pension and make the real big bucks.

Plus, you get to show that you are truly patriotic, versus the regular civilian workers in America who don't have real federal patriotic values and revere the flag like you do. March - left, left, left right left.

God punishes civilians with unemployment through their lives.

Didn't you know?


Dr. Impossible's picture g/f graduated last year psy.d .....280K study astrology her job as a "doctor" she brings home less then $15bucks an hour..i was paying her better to mow grass and spread mulch in neighbors graduated, gonna bring home maybe 15k this she bought a scion...took a loan now wants to quit cuz her insurance gonna be 5k more per year then she thought.....omg omg omg omg teaches this?!??!?!?!?!? debt slavery....she sooooooooo me...cuz i earned and saved in gold those same semi retired were 37 yrs old

downwiththebanks's picture

Of course.  Because nothing matters more than idiot banker-gangsters getting paid to satisfy - however temporarily - their insatiable lust for drugs and hookers.

NOTHING is more important than banker-gangsters in the whole world.

dlmaniac's picture

It's so easy for nowadays kids to get out of colleges with 100K debts on their shoulder while earning a useless degree. Peter Schiff once said that if you have two kids going to colleges then by graduation time they combined would have a mortgage on their shoulder with neither a house behind it nor necessary job skills to show for after 4 years of "study".

Sudden Debt's picture

What I don't understand is why American young people don't go to a European university for 4 years which is vastly supperior and almost for "free" (still costs you 5000$ a year for books/inscription/..., 15000$ if you include boarding).

I went to  Arizona for 6 months to complete my education (because it was fully sponsored by the state :) )

And yes, it was a joke. In the final years at the end, you started with stuff that at high school. It really wasn't hard to plus those courses. 

malek's picture

Which European universities teach in english, outside UK/Ireland?

Henry Chinaski's picture

Must read:

Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
by Zac Bissonnette