The American Dream is an enduring ethos in the United States. It existed among the earliest notions of our forefathers, as it is proposed within the words of the Constitution that every citizen has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While today the American Dream is self-defined, it has historically been represented as an image of a good job, ownership of a home, a happy marriage and 2.5 kids who are increasingly encouraged to go to college and follow their dreams—with the promise of being able to achieve anything to which they set their minds.
The one aspect of this increasingly bygone notion of the American Dream that still holds true, and with little exception, is that the cornerstone of achieving the American Dream begins with a college education. Lifetime earnings are 84% higher with any version of a bachelor’s degree than high school degree, and college graduates can expect their collective earnings to reach $2.3 million. By contrast, the lifetime expected earnings of those who attended college but did not graduate drop to $1.5 million. High school graduates, however, earn even less – $1.3 million, just 56% of their college graduate cohorts. These figures convincingly illustrate that when considering the lifetime value of an education, the benefit is certainly worth the cost.
Yes, pursuing a college degree can be expensive. But sources exist to help students meet the cost. What they lack, however, is training in how to manage their loans and create a plan for repayment. This is where students so often go astray—and is why the media paints a portrait of an American Dream in decline. So let’s change the relationship students have with their loans by giving them the knowledge and confidence to make smart borrowing decisions every step of the way, including after graduation. After all, it makes sense for them—and the country—that students learn how to manage debt before it becomes a problem. When students have a plan for borrowing and repaying their loans, they’ll feel the money they owe is worth every cent.
Learn how to help your students borrow smarter at asa.org/WorthIt
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