Reading through the article, I saw a common thread for most of the individuals who are struggling under the burden of debt - college. It seems that being a full-time college student puts you in more debt than you are able to pay with the job you get once you graduate.
I went to college and even grad school. But I wasn't the traditional student. For part of my college career, I worked full-time and attended school part time. Later, I stayed home to raise my children and took classes when I was able. I didn't get my undergraduate degree until I was 40. My diploma looks like any other graduate's diploma. You can't tell that I did it part time. The only difference, which you can't see, is that I did it debt free.
I was able to go to school and not incur any debt because I went on what I call the "pay as you go" plan. Unfortunately, there's a stigma to doing it this way. Those who have the privilege of going full time tend to look down on part-time students as "less than." It seems that the "best" way to do it is to live on campus, immerse yourself full-time in studies, and then party with your friends when you're not in class or working on assignments.
This inferior attitude was reinforced by a professor I had at my community college. He said we shouldn't have community colleges as they aren't "real" colleges. As he said that, I sat in my desk stunned. It was an evening class and I looked around at my classmates. I was sure that every single one of them had worked hard all day and were tired. Yet they took the time (time they could be home with their families, engaging in hobbies, watching television, spending time with friends) to grab a quick dinner and drive to the college where they would spend three hours sitting in an uncomfortable desk chair so that they could better themselves. They weren't doing it because their parents said they had to and I doubt any of them were borrowing thousands of dollars for the privilege. (And what was the professor saying about himself since he had to teach at an "substandard" institution?)
As I hear about young people borrowing thousands of dollars in order to live up to our society's expectations, it makes me sad - and angry. While I value education, I feel that young people are being duped into believing they must borrow money and go to college, because anything else makes them less valuable as human beings.
While it would have been nice to have gotten my college education done in four years, as a young adult I knew I couldn't afford it. And fortunately for me the idea of borrowing money to go to school never occurred to me. I just knew if I was to realize my dream of getting a college degree that it would be a long road and that I would have to make personal sacrifices to do so.
It seems that it is now the norm for high school students to be taken by the hand and led through the maze of financial "assistance" which typically boils down to them taking out loans that will crush them for many years after they graduate. Questions about how much debt they will ultimately incur or whether they will realistically be able to pay it off rarely come up. They're just told they need to go to college to get a good job and this is the way those who are not wealthy (or aren't eligible for a full scholarship) must do it. Even those who get full scholarships often end up in debt because they still need money on which to live for those four (or more) years.
Again, I'm not saying I don't value education - I do. If I didn't, I wouldn't have spent 22 years of my life seeking it. What I am saying is that we need to stop making part-time college students seem as if they and their experience is substandard. And maybe we need to actually encourage students to get their degrees on a part-time basis and eschew the whole student loan experience. In fact, I've come to believe that getting a college degree the way I did can actually make one value the degree and the experience more than someone who simply signs on the dotted line and heads off for full time college experience. It's certainly a whole lot easier on your pocketbook.