College has become this system, only backwards. You spend the best 4 years of your life in an environment where you are free to say whatever you like. People are as relaxed in judging others as they will ever be. Mostly everybody is popular in college. There's no "mainstream" clique; you can find a group of friends as a seemingly endless list of common interests link people all across the campus. There is a reason why you seldom hear of college shootings; the culture is far more open and accepting, and society is not that way in high school, or after high school. It is not until later that you will have to pay it all back.
The actual amount of time you spend in classes is quite minimal. This leaves you with all kinds of time to kill, by either doing homework that is often not even checked, reading, going out and enriching yourself in the arts, or going out and making bad decisions. Everybody in college knows somebody who makes bad decisions, and you know what I mean. Part of developing in life is learning from mistakes. My motto is that life is not about learning from your mistakes; it is about learning from the mistakes of others. I stayed away from most parties, and I learned from others about safe vs unsafe party behavior. I learned from my buddies who started smoking about how nasty it is, the smoker's hack, and the economic cost of smoking. I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, and I plan on keeping it that way.
Despite the enrichment that people gain in college, there is a cost; an economic cost. The worst day in my life was the day I graduated from undergraduate school. I had just broken up with a long-term girlfriend, I had no job lined up, and I knew that I was never going to live within the same proximity of my fraternity buddies. From here on out, I'd have to seek a job, manage money (I had basically no money), and worst of all, pay for the fun I had.
Student loans are a fairly recent issue. When my dad attended college in the 70's, tuition costed less than a textbook does today. Of course, inflation is bound to raise the cost of anything, but there is no mathematical basis to support inflation being the sole cause of the skyrocketing costs of college.
I have a huge moral issue with 2 things: the loan companies and colleges. Every year, colleges raise their tuition all across the nation. It's an annual thing. While it is true that colleges are mainly expanding, they will never be motivated to lower the cost of tuition; if the current price still attracts students, they might as well keep racking in that money. When I began attending Heidelberg, annual tuition was $20,000. Heidelberg.edu shows that it has since risen to $25,000 Through financial aid, the cost was roughly reduced to half of that. This does not even include room & board, and textbooks. Textbooks can be made cheaper by checking out the site: www.dealoz.com. I recommend finding your required books through that site; it will be a major financial relief to find a book slightly used.
Right before I left Heidelberg, I received a letter about from the University about how they know how bad the economy is... but they were going to raise tuition by another $2,000. It didn't really affect me since I was on my way out. What did affect me was the pressure from student loans. I had to almost impulsively decide how to figure out how to pay them back. I had 6 months before statements would start arriving. After a month, I applied to John Carroll University for a Master's in Education and teaching license. After acceptance, I was able to defer my current loans, but guess what? I had to take out even more in loans. This was a gamble. What if I still couldn't get a job after getting my Master's? That would be very bad.
The point that I am making is that College functions along the same paradigm as indentured servitude. Many of us attend college to escape poverty; one of the few ways to gain skills in this economic market is to earn a college degree. Many of us should not go to college because we do not have the needed skills to do so. Some of us can find our skills through a trade school, such as welding or plumbing, or machinery. Such individuals surprisingly make very good money; more than a teacher with a Master's degree. Those who do not attend college start working, and after a few years, we start to realize that we need to make a living of our own. Working at a gas station will not pay the bills; as our friends finish college and move on to bigger and better jobs, we are still stuck working a job we could have had at the age of 16.
Student loan companies lobbied for legislation that would allow for substantially larger interest rates on student loans. For whatever reason, they weren't profiting enough off poor, young citizens, and they felt entitled to a larger profit. This is why I don't believe in free-market politics; unregulated economic activity inevitably favors the more advantaged members of society. The legislation did not pass, and for good reason. There is no reason for college to have to cost substantially more than it once did, and student loans are only making it worse for society, for all of our young college grads will not be able to participate often in the market for several years. Without young participants, the housing market will crash again, and other markets will fail because nobody has money to spend.
Fortunately for me, I lucked out. My grandmother's dementia finally gave way, and she passed away in the summer, leaving a large inheritance for me to pay back all of my loans. I got lucky. People can spend as much as 10 years or even more trying to pay them back. Society never used to demand such indentured servitude. I won't tell students to not attend college, but costs can never go down unless students across the nation begin a movement refusing to attend college.