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The Higher Education Bubble About to Burst?

A change is gonna come. You can almost hear the chanting rising from thousands of angry blog posts and segments on national news – higher education needs to adapt to the country’s current economic state or be rendered obsolete.

The national student loan debt is (no mystery) above $1 trillion and rising sharply, surpassing national credit card debt and remaining one of the hardest loans from which to escape. And how much work does a BA, especially in something like Fine Arts, really get you anymore? Today, four years at a university seems to be more expected than valued. While it might be harder to find employment without a degree, that piece of paper in no way guarantees a decent job, let alone work in your field of study. The attitude surrounding college has become one of social obligation: You just graduated high school, congratulations! What now, you say? Why, college of course.

So you go to a university for four years, just like your supposed to, and after you graduate you’ve got anywhere from $24,000 – $200,000 in debt. Ok, now the next thing you’re supposed to do: pay that money back, but your Bachelor’s degree in English Literature isn’t netting you so much as a cashier job at a bookstore. There’s an obvious problem here – the more debt college graduates are chained to, the longer they have to struggle to pay their loans back. And if the product they’ve been buying is failing to work for them, why is it so expensive and difficult to pay for?

Luckily, the United States government is making an effort to deflate the bubble of higher education before it pops completely. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to make the financial aid process easier to understand and new legislation on student loans under the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act (2010) provides income-based repayment and debt forgiveness. Unfortunately, this only solves part of the problem.

While federal loan language is being rewritten and the status of student debt is being re-evaluated, there are valid arguments against changing the way things work. For example, currently you cannot declare bankruptcy and be forgiven for your educational debt. But if student loans were given the same bankruptcy status as regular federal loans, what incentive would banks have to give them out? The rules would become stricter and biases based on areas of study would emerge. Banks would only want to finance students who won’t immediately declare bankruptcy after college and will make enough money in their field to pay back their loan.

At some point, all of this will come to a head: the financial pressure of educational debt, the lousy economy and lack of jobs, the increasing degree to which your BA isn’t delivering gainful employment. Either higher education will be easier to pay for or more and more young adults will stop going to college unless they think that (gasp) they actually need to. Until then though, creative companies like Piglt are finding exciting, entrepreneurial ways for you to repay your student loans.

Your loans might not cost any less, but wouldn’t it be nice to take a chunk out of your debt using the skills you paid all that money for in the first place? When Random House won’t publish your debut poetry book, Piglt’s here to help you pay for the four years you spent developing those deep feelings of introspection and isolation.

Oh yeah, I guess you do get something out of college besides a degree. One way or another, you get an education.

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