High school students have much more to consider than ever before

Commentary by Thomas Herter
Times-News correspondent

 For the past two generations, society has encouraged high school students to continue their studies in order to earn four-year college degrees to secure higher paying jobs following graduation. With so much evidence that college degrees provide far more opportunities, few questioned this conventional wisdom.

Young adults today, though, are finding it difficult to make choices that were very easy just a few years ago. As high school students consider their future, they are keenly aware of how their choices may have a may have a significant impact on them financially later in life.

The current realities and constant reports of a global recession, high rates of unemployment and sky-rocketing tuition rates have made the post-graduation decision that much harder. Tuition increases alone continue to push many students to disregard the possibility of being able to afford college at all.

Colleges themselves are reporting record levels of well-performing students dropping out for financial reasons, and students are carefully weighing the benefits of taking out more loans than they think they can reasonably pay off once they get out of college.

Imagining this high debt, students are wondering where and how they might live after graduation, as well. Consulting group Twentysomething Inc. recently provided part of the answer when it reported that 85 percent of college graduates planned to move back in with their parents.

Many observers point to various studies on life after college and are wondering if students today have grown up with too few responsibilities, leading employers to search for candidates with at least some work experience rather than those with “just” a college degree.

Whatever the cause, there’s no doubt that high school students have much more to consider than ever before when making plans following graduation.

To combat the unknown, many students are opting to stay at home after high school graduation and earn college credits at a community college to be applied to a four-year degree, even if part-time.

No matter the choice, students facing these difficult decisions should talk to their school counselors, parents and trusted adults for guidance, and keep their minds and options open to the many possibilities that exist to continue learning.

 Thomas Herter is a junior at Hawbridge School and a Teens & Twenties writer.

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