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Congratulations, Class of ’11, You Broke Scholars, You!

Guess which graduated class is going to be the one with the most debt, ever, in the history of paid education? If you guessed this year’s class (and after viewing the title that you clicked on, I think we all know you had a little help, so you’re not necessarily smarter than a fifth grader), you would be correct!

The average college debt for graduates is now $22,900. I remember when my little sister informed her high school English teacher (who was one of my own favorite teachers) that she would be attending the local community college for two years, since she was able to land a free ride there, rather than attend an expensive state university, and he was so disappointed with her.

Well, hello, sir, did you know that we grew up in a trailer park, were the first of our family to go to college (aside from a cousin, who was fortunate to have parents able to help her pay), and despite our 4.0’s, were not able to get full rides into universities since they still charged us an arm and a leg to live there for residency—which, of course, was a requirement? Even with my tuition covered, I am still in a lot of debt just for that, and I worked two jobs through college on top of it to pay for books, phone bills, transportation, food, and whatever else I needed.

College costs 47% more than it cost just ten years ago. That’s a helluva lot of inflation, folks. And this year’s costs alone are already 8% more than last year’s. As the New York Times has pointed out before, college degrees can be very overrated—and there have never been as many alternatives to college as there are today. I always ask high school grads to both read It’s My Life: A Guide to Alternatives After High School, as well as this article about college alternatives, before they decide for certain that they want to go to college.

Let me say this again: college is not for everyone. I cannot stress this enough. We need more dreamers, inventors, creative thinkers—not cogs in the wheel who will be working their asses off to pay their debt for the next thirty years. If you know what you want to do, great; if it requires college, find a way to go. If you don’t know, or if you do and it doesn’t require college, then don’t waste your time and money.