October 24, 2014

Too much focus on college degree

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) says we should be encouraging parents to inform their kids of their full range of options. Young adults shouldn’t be pushed into getting an expensive four-year college degree that can bury a graduate in student loan debt for years into the future.

“They can go to technical colleges; they can potentially work until they actually know what they want to do rather than just tell everybody they have to get a college degree when they’re either not ready for it, or they don’t know what they really want to do, and taking six years and incurring tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt.” Johnson says, “That’s not a good system. The status quo is not working for anybody.”

As members of congress discuss the growing student debt and work to decrease interest rates on federal student loans, Senator Johnson says it’s time to broaden the conversation. He thinks everyone should get a college education, but government needs to get out of the way of the private sector so higher education can be more affordable. And, if you can’t or don’t want to get a college degree, Johnson wants you to know that’s fine, too.

“You know, it is a shame,” he says. “Because we’re telling all of our children you have to get a four-year college degree … we are inferring that unless you get a college degree, you’re somehow a second-class citizen. We denigrate the trades.”

Johnson emphasizes the value of all jobs, including the trades — plumber, electrician, construction worker. There are many benefits to a college education, including a higher earning potential. Johnson says plenty of people in Wisconsin don’t have a college degree, but have done well with their skills and talents; meanwhile others have college degrees, he says, but no job and tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

AUDIO: Johnson says young adults need to know their options. 1:24

A bipartisan group of United States senators have tentatively agreed last week on a plan to keep interest rates on federal student loans from getting out of control. On July 1, federal student loan rates doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Under the compromise proposal, interest rates would be tied to market rates. That means when the economy improves, student loan interest rates would rise; however, under the new deal rates are capped to prevent them from going too high.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:45