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Undeclared major promotes financial irresponsibility

Undeclared major promotes financial irresponsibility (credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor) Undeclared major promotes financial irresponsibility (credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor)
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According to the 2009 State Profile Report by the College Board, the average student at a four-year public university pays $8,244 in tuition, while at a private university, the average student pays $28,500. Parental support and financial aid help a lot but do not cover everything, leaving loans to fill in the gap. According to FinAid.org, debt from student loans is at $983 billion and counting.

There’s no doubt about it: College is expensive. And yet so many people throw money at a college education without a second thought. Every college student should feel obligated to act responsibly when choosing to enter into so much debt.

At Carnegie Mellon, the Undergraduate Admissions website states that the average financial aid package is $33,679, with the average amount awarded in grants as $23,083. If loans make up the difference, then the average student will be assuming $10,596 in debt per year.

Granted, we all know we have to spend money to make money, and knowledge is a great investment. Isn’t the cost of tuition justified? The education we gain will give us the best qualifications to get a decent job and live the American dream. And if we don’t go to college, we face the social stigma against the uneducated. So we go to college because it’s the obvious next step in our future: It’s a rite of passage.

But a huge number of students don’t think about what they are investing in. They enter into higher education unclear about what career they are pursuing, what education they want to receive, and how they are going to apply their skills to advancing along their career path. They don’t think about the important long-term question: How will this education get them a job?

Instead, these students enter college and begin acquiring debt in order to explore their options. This path often involves entering college immediately after exiting high school, milling around as undecided majors until they make a decision a year or two later about what they want to do with their lives. In fact, in another report, the College Board found that an undecided major was the ninth most common major of graduating high school seniors from the list of 38 majors provided, illustrating that there are still a lot of students who don’t think about what they are investing in.

Meanwhile, these students are acquiring massive debt. Without a clear idea of what they are spending money on and how it will benefit them in the long run, it is difficult to justify the debt they are acquiring. Without a clear career path, it is hard to know that the college they are attending will have the right program to train them for their eventual job. It is worrisome that these students are acquiring debt despite these issues.

Their behavior reflects the financial irresponsibility that is seen all over the country and the financial irresponsibility that led to the real estate collapse, and subsequent corporate and individual bankruptcy over the last few years. It is a simple fact that if you try to consume more money than you can create, you will end up burdening the country and the economy. Similar to real estate, college debt should be treated responsibly — keeping students’ futures and the nation’s economy in mind.

But the accumulation of student debt is not even the main concern. What is most concerning is that students are frivolously spending money with no clear concept of its importance. Entering into college as an undeclared major is a thoughtless choice that hurts both the nation’s economy and the students themselves. Students should do more research and prepare a career path to develop financial responsibility.