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The Dansville Online
  • Sen. Tom O'Mara: College affordability plan

  • One of our local legends, Mark Twain, is credited with the following advice to young people just getting started in life, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So…Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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  • One of our local legends, Mark Twain, is credited with the following advice to young people just getting started in life, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So…Explore. Dream. Discover.”
    It’s college graduation season locally, statewide and across America, soon to be followed by the class of 2012 moving on from their high schools, so Twain’s words seem timely and traditional. But here at the start of the second decade of the 21st century, a long ways down the road from the days of Mark Twain, other thoughts inevitably intrude too.
    A Gallup Poll last August showed that nearly 70 percent of Americans strongly agree or agree that a college degree is “essential for getting a good job in this country.” I don’t find that surprising. But it’s also important to keep in mind a recent Associated Press analysis showing that more than half of all college graduates are unemployed or underemployed — and at the same time most of them face significant college loan debt.
    In so many ways, far more than can be covered in a short column like this one, the above juxtaposition captures one key struggle for the next generation: college is fundamental to a successful future, but securing that future sure has become expensive and uncertain.
    Sixty-one percent of students who attend college in New York leave school in debt. In 2010, graduates from New York colleges had an average loan debt of $26,271 — the 10th highest in the nation. Five years ago the average debt for New York schools was 20th highest in the country.
    Nationally, college tuitions have increased well beyond the rate of inflation, income and health care costs. Estimates are that by 2016 the average cost of a public college will have more than doubled in 15 years. The amount of student debt is now more than $1 trillion, surpassing the amount owed on credit cards and auto loans.
    While this graduation season rightly remains a time of celebration, we can’t overlook today’s reality that high college costs, looming future debt and an unpredictable economic outlook have combined to create a time of deep uncertainty for many young people and their families.
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