This weekend, students from Clinton Community College and SUNY Plattsburgh will walk across stages to accept their diplomas, as graduates from Paul Smith’s College and North Country Community College did last Saturday.
In achieving their degrees, these women and men have joined about 39.3 percent (2010 U.S. Census figures) of Americans age 25 to 34 who have earned post-secondary degrees.
That alone is worth celebrating. People who are college educated earn far more in their lifetimes than those with only a high-school education, numerous studies have shown. That makes them coveted contributors to the nation’s economy and brain power.
Even as their families watch with pride as they finish this stage of their education, today’s graduates face many challenges. The American economy is gaining ground — the stock market provides daily evidence of that — but the job market is still weak, and many graduates will not have secured jobs in their field of study.
Some students will continue their education, moving on to pursue master’s or doctorate degrees. Some will transition into internships, hoping those paid or unpaid positions will evolve into full-time jobs. Other graduates will take jobs that aren’t linked to their majors, pleased just to have any kind of income.
For some students, graduation without an independence-sustaining paycheck will mean a return to living with their families — probably not the life that either the parents or children had hoped.
But, despite the somewhat gloomy job outlook, no one should lose sight of the fact that these students have achieved something amazing — something the majority of Americans have not done — by completing the intensive studies needed to earn their associate and bachelor’s degrees.
Their hard work has made them more marketable, more knowledgeable in their fields. They may not be walking into their dream jobs, but they have given themselves an edge on the path to achievement.
It is important to our nation’s financial stability and its future accomplishments that we keep investing in college education and that we make it affordable to all.
This week, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer spoke against a pending interest-rate increase for student loans. The interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. At this time, about 285,000 students in upstate New York colleges and universities are making use of Stafford loans, according to Schumer.
He said the rate increase could add more than $3,700 to loans over a 10-year payment period.
Congress lowered the interest rate In 2007, but that needs to be extended. We join Schumer in urging Congress to extend the 3.4 percent rate for two years.
Assuring students can pay their loans pays dividends for all of us.