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Superintendent's note - Postsecondary Career and Educational Decisions

By Evans, Todd

February 06, 2017

In a recent conversation with a parent, I learned that her child and fiancé both have a compiled college student loan debt of over $100,000. These individuals have both successfully completed undergraduate and graduate schools. Even with potential income from graduate degrees, the idea of beginning a marriage with such a significant level of debt is alarming.

US News and World Report reports that in 2016, 70% of college students graduated with debt. For these students, the average debt is $37,172. In Kansas, with the decreasing aid for state colleges and subsequent increase in tuition, it is safe to say that student debt will be on the rise.

Earnings potential for various level of education must be considered when evaluating the feasibility of incurring debt:

Information from the National Center for Educational Statistics (for 25 – 34 year olds in 2014):

Average earning for an individual with a Bachelors’ Degree                       $49,000

Average earning for an individual with an Associate’s Degree                   $35,000

                Average earning for an individual with a High School Diploma                   $30,000

                Average earning for an individual without a High School Diploma             $25,000

The gap between earnings of those with a high school diploma and postsecondary education is expected to grow.

Especially through the application of Individual Plans of Study, USD 113’s middle schools and high schools are working with students to help identify careers as early as possible. When considering potential careers, it is important for students to explore the employability and educational demand of their future jobs.

The Kansas State Department of Education cites a Georgetown University study that asserts the education demand for jobs in Kansas in 2020 will require the following education:

11% Masters Degree

25% Bachelors Degree

35% Associates Degree

29% High School Diploma or less

Adding to the attractiveness of low student debt and high earnings potential of Associates Degrees, there are a number of community-sponsored scholarships for students pursuing a technical education. In addition to previously available scholarships, USD 113 2017 graduates will be eligible for a $5,000 annual scholarship called the “Gary and Virginia McDaniel Family Scholarship.” This annual scholarship is to benefit a student attending a technical education program with the intent of pursuing a career in northeast Kansas.

Another avenue that some USD 113 graduates have taken is to become a member of the military. Not only do students have an opportunity for service to the United States, they learn important career skills.  There is also financial assistance with furthering an education through the GI Bill. This increases the appeal of the military as a vocation or as an important career step.

Student debt is a reality for our young people as they begin their careers. Hopefully, through Individual Plans of Study, we can help students research and plan for the financial demands of post-secondary education. We also can help students explore technical careers or the military as options that can provide for low student debt, high earnings potential and careers within our own communities. 

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