Degree of Debt: Is college worth it?



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Posted on November 11, 2011 at 10:12 AM

Updated Friday, Nov 11 at 10:15 AM

SEATTLE -- In a world of high unemployment and rising tuition costs, many students like Derrick Parmer are left to do some soul searching about whether the college experience is worth the whopping price tag.

"I’m rolling the dice," he said.

Parmer is in his second year of community college in Seattle and estimates he will graduate with more than $50,000 in student loan debt. He is majoring in film and worries that it could take him a long time to pay it all off.

"Hopefully it will be worth it," he said. "My only goal is to get my career off the ground before the debt collectors come knocking at my door."

The statistics can be frightening for current and prospective students. Average college debt has now climbed to roughly $27,000 per student in the U.S. Total student debt will likely pass $1 trillion this year. And since it usually can’t be wiped away in bankruptcy, it can stay with you for a lifetime.

Seattle Education Access, a non-profit organization that works with low income students to get a quality education, said there are ways to avoid deep debt and still get an education.

"It's about creating a good plan with the students," said Anthon Smith, Executive Director of S.E.A. 55 "One of the main things we do to help students avoid debt is enroll at a community college. It is equal education and often smaller classes."

Smith said it’s also key to do research to select a career path that will allow you to pay off loans in a timely way.

"College is definitely worth it, as long as you think it through before you start," Smith said.

Parmer said he's willing to take the risk to say he has a diploma.

"Who knows if it will pay off," he said.