Keeping my Interest | ParkRecord.com
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Keeping my Interest

Caleb Diehl

In my freshman year at Lewis and Clark College, I met a bunch of interesting people. Then midway into May, as I was looking forward to investing more time in promising relationships, my peers left for other schools.

I didn’t really know the guy who lived across the hall from me, but he was a good student. I appreciated his wit. He was easy to talk to, especially in a room of unfamiliar people. He gave me a stiff goodbye before leaving. He didn’t say it was the money, but I’m not ready to take that off his bill of worries.

I met a girl with dark eyes. She was interested in the things I cared about. I even sent her the first ink and paper letter I ever penned. She transferred. Maybe she’ll come back in two years, she said, depending on the money.

About three weeks ago, texts piled on my phone. My cross-country teammates were in a digital uproar. That new recruit who runs 16 flat at altitude changed his education plans on Facebook. That’s happened to the team before. Even prodigious runners don’t always catch up to enough academic scholarship money.

At Lewis and Clark, about 15 percent of the student body will transfer after freshmen year. Of course, people leave for lots of reasons, maybe just for a change of scenery or academic program. But too often, financial anxiety rips my peers away from comfortable communities. Students can make free decisions, but money shouldn’t push them adrift without a choice.

Some of us stay hooked on a beautiful campus full of great professors. So we shoot up on student loan debt, our casually accepted drug, to keep pumping through four years. Park City High School’s class of 2013 will soon join us.

the time she graduates from college, the average student will have borrowed about $26,000 to get higher education. Total student loan debt has risen to $1 trillion and is more prevalent than any type of debt aside from mortgage loans.

Students want a good job or college experience so badly we will keep borrowing no matter the rate. That keeps us asleep through the American dream. A little cash injection with the interest crash later, another easy signature on a check, kills the pain — for now.

And that’s probably the right choice. There’s rehab for going $26,000 in the hole. It’s the $32,000 difference in earnings between people with a bachelor’s degree and college dropouts.

Don’t abandon your dream college either. Payscale.com‘s measure of the long-term monetary value of education finds a 6.9 percent Return on Investment for Harvard, compared with a negative 12.3 percent ROI for its lowest-ranked school. Get high quality teaching and academic prestige from loans. Take care of withdrawal symptoms later.

Of course I shouldn’t be telling you to give in to such a hard drug. But right now, that’s the best stuff we’ve got. Besides, I’m a loan addict myself.

It’s tragic when the cost of quitting means giving up relationships like the ones I had. I refuse to sacrifice committed teachers and a diverse, intelligent community, even though my decision brings financial stress. Keep dreaming; eventually someone will wake us up from this collegiate American nightmare.

Caleb Diehl is a 2012 graduate of Park City High School and is currently studying economics and history at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He is also a summer intern at The Park Record.


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