A recent New York Times story told the tale of a student who graduated from college saddled with so much debt that she could barely make her payments. She even continued taking night classes just to delay the kick-in of her student loan payments — never mind that the interest had already begun accruing.

The article calls out colleges that encourage their students to take out large loans regardless of their intended professions and projected future salaries:

“Then the colleges introduced the students to lenders who underwrote big loans without any idea of what the students might earn someday — just like the mortgage lenders who didn’t ask borrowers to verify their incomes.”

This raises a question that’s been asked before here at Civil Beat in other forms: Is a college education really all it’s cracked up to be? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve benefited from earning a four-year degree, which I at one point worked 85-hour weeks to pay for without loans.

But is it a forgone conclusion that all high school graduates should seek a college degree? The presumption is that degrees will lead graduates to more profitable careers, but is that career always going to be worth up to $100,000 in student debt? In some cases, the dollar figure is even higher. It made me wonder what this means in a place like Hawaii, where the cost of living is high and high-paying jobs are relatively scarce.

Nationally, the average student accrues about $10,000 in debt. In a preliminary search, I was not able to find hard data regarding how much University of Hawaii students receive in loans, but I’ll keep digging. Regardless, seems to me the extreme debt situations provoke interesting questions.

I’m interested in hearing yours. Share them in our ongoing education discussion.

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