College, Crippling Debt and the Need for Financial Wisdom

Miller_slideshowA few years ago, I was driving a recent college graduate to lunch to celebrate his completion of college. He had a very difficult four years and he was excited for the next chapter of his life story. I asked him if he was graduating with much debt. “I’m one of the lucky ones,” he responded. “I’m only graduating with $50,000 of debt from student loans. Many of my friends have a lot more debt than me!”

What? I almost drove the car off the road. $50,000! I knew the degree he had earned, I knew of his plans for graduate school, and I couldn’t imagine being 22 years old, carrying that much debt. And he is one of the lucky ones?

This conversation was eye opening. First of all, it made me more attentive to the reality of debt most college students face. To my surprise, many of the students I have talked with since that memorable car ride are unaware of the crippling burden that debt can bring. A college degree can increase earning potential, to be sure, but not enough students and parents are talking about what kind of debt is good debt. Certainly, college is about much more than getting a degree to get a job and there is good reason to be concerned about the commodification of learning. We do need to be careful about how we measure the economic value of an education. But students and parents need to be practical and wise as well, asking: “Is this particular degree worth the cost?”

Secondly, the conversation with the young graduate open my eyes to the need for helpful resources for students and parents as they think through financial concerns related to college. As I surveyed the vast landscape of books available, a book by Steve Miller stuck out the most. Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It Save It and Give It Away is creative and engaging. It communicates deeper truths about money and spending through stories. Steve is an educator, investor, entrepreneur, and speaker who is known for drawing practical wisdom from serious research and communicating it in accessible, unforgettable ways. What follows is an interview with Steve about his important book and the financial challenges that many students and parents face…

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