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Don’t let academic anxieties stop you

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Student loans, debt & uncertain futures are the new reality, but why let this stop you?

A popular phrase for parents, teachers, school counselors and the like is “make your education your job.”

It sounds wise yet practical, and in the United States, it also holds far more merit than we may expect; in modern times, college students are investing more money, time, energy, intelligence and talent in their educations.

If education is our job, one would hope students would at least be considered part-time employees by now.

Our futures–no matter how clouded by financial strains or frustruating educational setbacks–are entirely ours to control. We cannot let such issues derail our destined careers.

Unfortunately, the constant push for education that has been progressing for decades in the U.S. has created a growing population of indebted and depressed students caught between the pressures of rising educational costs (both financial and otherwise) and their personal hopes of freedom and stability.

A 2012 report from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau finds that there is roughly $864 billion in federal student loan debt, with a remaining $150 billion in private loan debt. Of these loan holders, the largest demographic is the under-30 age group, at 14 million individuals, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York states.

Student loan debt and constricting educational routes have left thousands of students with a lack of confidence and positivity about their futures transitioning into the professional workforce. These concerns are realistic, and they are also what bind us together as students in the modern world.

College tuition is merely one more increasing burden for college students. University of California Berkeley, the paragon of higher education in the California educational system, exemplifies the designer cost of a modern college degree.

In the 2004-2005 academic year, Cal’s semester tuition cost (then referred to as an educational fee) was $4,971, or $2,485.50 each semester, according to UC Berkeley Office of the Registrar archived information.

Tuition costs have been creeping upwards ever since, from $6,262 in the 2008-2009 academic year to the current semesterly fee of $12,864 for 2013-2014. While such numbers may not set off any alarms immediately, combine the necessary add-ons of housing and dining costs, books and supplies, transportation and typical living expenses, which pile up to a far more hefty $33,320 budget.

So, when you’re contemplating how the cost of UC Berkeley’s tuition ballooned from only $3,086 in 1995—an almost payable amount—to its whopping modern level, start setting those alarms off on your own.

Mother Jones reporter Andy Kroll wrote in 2012 of the downward spiral of California’s higher education.

In his article “The Slow Death of California’s Higher Education,” Kroll questioned what lay ahead for the students that gained access to the proverbial ivory tower.

“Let me paint you a grim picture. Colleges are filling the gap in state funding by leaning ever harder on students and their families to pay more in tuition and fees,” he stated.

“California’s public higher education system is, in other words, dying a slow death.”Therefore, remaining vigilant and responsible is crucial when traversing this “dying” system.

Many students also rely single-handedly on financial aid, both state and federal, to fund their way through college.

Fifty-eight percent of students who receive Pell Grants are from households that make $30,000 or less annually, a 2012 College Board study found. These grants, averaging around $2,500-$6,000, are no small sum.

So what are students and their families to do in times of budget cuts and beleaguered academic futures?

Finish their degree, that’s what.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that college graduates earned 50 percent more than their peers who did not graduate college and only earned a high school diploma, and 22 percent more than students who only earned an associates degree.

So while the road to success will be arduous and unknown, it may still be very much in your best interest to follow the expected path through college to your waiting diploma.

With over 4,000 degree-granting higher education institutions in the nation according to the National Center for Education Statistics and with hundreds of majors such as aerospace engineering, marine biology, kinesiology and criminology, the possibilities for a bright future are virtually endless.

Consider all of the options ahead of you. Not all occupations require a four-year degree to be useful. Remember that taking time off from school is not a cardinal sin.

And lastly, don’t be afraid of investing in your education. While it is unfair that students should be weighed down with debt before the rest of their life even begins, know that with a stable job, paying back your loans is feasible.

In 2014, your rose-colored glasses are useless. Accept the fact that we have a tough future ahead of us-but a future that is still ours nonetheless.

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Don’t let academic anxieties stop you