by Ashley Logsdon

College (Debt) or Not? (Episode 116)

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Should you encourage your children to go to college or not? With the mounting college debt load many students walk away with, plus no guarantee of work once you get that slip of paper, is it really worth it? 

In this episode and post below, We'll lay out some staggering stats and other ideas beyond simply getting a degree.

Listen to this episode on iTunesSpotifyStitcherGoogle PlayTuneInYouTubeiHeartRadio or your RSS Feed  *Now also on the Pandora app and!

Stories of Stress

My father's podcast, 48 Days to the Work You Love, is a similar format to our podcast, where listeners send in questions for him to cover on the air.

Here are just a few he got in recently:

  • I’ve got a degree in teaching but don’t want to be a teacher.
  • From a higher education insider: I see a lot of examples of the wastefulness of attending college.

Pin for later:

  • I am a 45-year old attorney (married with four children) working for a non-profit making $48,000/year. I owe more in student loans than I did when I graduated 11 years ago. Should I go back to work for a toxic employer because I need the money?
  • My son has a 2 degrees, one in Communication Speech and one in Theater. He considers himself an actor and does short films in our state as a side which doesn’t pay. He has $83,000 in college debt and can’t see himself climbing out of the black hole anytime soon, if ever.

Go here to check out this podcast episode where Dan Miller addresses these questions and more. 

Dan Miller

Author, Career Coach, Creative Thinker

Two years ago I wrote this piece that continues to get input. In this week’s episode I share current questions from college graduates who feel trapped by virtue of their college degrees. But no one is trapped. We all have so many options to take our personal talents and move into our dream position.

I’m not dissing getting a college degree. I have more degrees than anyone needs, but not with the idea that they were going to get me a particular job. I have those degrees for the sole purpose of learning and engaging with others.

Where are we this week?

Just "hangin' around" in New Mexico with more friends - the rally fun has kept on going with friends old and new joining us on our way to yet another rally! 

Follow us on our journey on Insta as the FieldTripGypsies!

Massive, Massive College Debt

We are stuck in this trap that we need a degree more than we need to be able to pay for it. So we borrow money from someone else so we can have that life that someone else has. 

Nathan is a fan of this this Amish concept:

You build your business before your house.

More than 2.3 million people per year graduate college. 61% of Americans have at least some college education. (source:

Nearly seven in 10 seniors (68%) who graduated from public and non-profit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt. Public Colleges: 66% of borrowers who graduated from public colleges have student loan debt.

Average college debt at public colleges is $25,550, which is 25% higher today than it was in 2008. (source:

Unsecured Debt

Yikes. College debt is serious. Nathan was a banker for years, and he breaks this down a bit more in the podcast. College debt is unsecured debt. A lot of college debt is not hinged to anything. It's not connected to your house or anything else. We have this massive ball of college debt with no way to pay it back. 

College Debt Statistics

First, let’s start with a general picture of the student loan/college debt landscape. The most recent reports indicate there is:

  • $1.56 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt
  • 44.7 million Americans have student loan debt
  • 11.5% of student loans are 90 days or more delinquent or are in default
  • Average monthly student loan payment (among those not in deferment): $393
  • Median monthly student loan payment (among those not in deferment): $222

(Data via the U.S. Federal Reserve, here, here and here, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, here and here.)

More shocking student loan debt statistics

If those numbers weren’t stunning enough, here’s a closer look at how students accumulate debt based on the type of school they attend.

  • 65% of seniors graduating from public and nonprofit colleges in 2017 had student loan debt.
  • 66% of graduates from public colleges had loans (average college debt of $25,550)
  • 75% of graduates from private nonprofit colleges had loans (average college debt of $32,300)
  • 88% of graduates from for-profit colleges had loans (average college debt of $39,950)
  • About 15% of the student debt held by the graduating class of 2017 was private.
  • 48% of borrowers who attended for-profit colleges default within 12 years, compared to 12% of public college attendees, and 14% of nonprofit college attendees.

Graduates who received Pell Grants were likely to borrow, and borrow more:

  • 88% of graduates who received Pell Grants had student loans in 2012, with an average balance of $31,200.
  • 53% of those who didn’t receive a Pell Grant had student loan debt, borrowing an average of $26,450 ($4,750 less than those with Pell Grants).

Combined undergraduate and graduate college debt by degree:

  • MBA = $42,000 COLLEGE DEBT (11% of graduate degrees)
  • Master of Education = $50,879 COLLEGE DEBT (16%)
  • Master of Science = $50,400 COLLEGE DEBT (18%)
  • Master of Arts = $58,539 COLLEGE DEBT (8%)
  • Law = $140,616 COLLEGE DEBT (4%)
  • Medicine and health sciences = $161,772 COLLEGE DEBT (5%)
  • Other master’s degrees = $55,489 COLLEGE DEBT (15%)

Think outside the box of College

As soon as you graduate high school, you're supposed to go to college, graduate, get a job, get married, start having's a perfect recipe for success and happiness. Right?

Ouch - when college students oftentimes have never experienced the amount of money in their bank account that they'll owe in college debt, is this really how we want to equip our children to get started in adulthood?

No pressure. We're just expecting a 17-19 year old fresh out of high school to just go ahead and decide their path for the rest of their life, and accrue so much college debt they can't get out of it. Welcome "golden" handcuffs! 

I am so thankful that I had grace to grow, and not be confined to the decisions I made at 17 years old. When you have a child who has yet to experience adulthood, how can they have the wisdom to discern exactly what path they want to take?

There Is More Than One Way To...

There are way more options in life than just one path. Not only that, there are seasons in life. What works at one point in your life, or what you are drawn to, may change. And that's okay. 

Yes, you need to plan ahead. And, well, it's critical to enjoy the moment as well. Life is fleeting, seasons change, and your circumstances will as well. As you grow and learn, you may discover something about yourself and your passions that opens up a whole new door of opportunity. Are you creating any space for serendipity in your life?

College is one path. And it can be an incredible. But look at your WHY. Why are you going? What do you hope to accomplish? How much ahead will you be - do you have college debt building up? Are you truly invested in the process of college? Do you want an ROI because of what it took to be there? 

College Debt = "free" ride?

When you go to college on loans, where is your "skin in the game" - how are you invested in the process? How often do we pave the road so perfectly for our children that we're at risk of becoming those "snow plow" parents that make everything so easy our kids don't have any opportunity to struggle?

When you don't "pay to play", your investment in the process tends to reflect the effort put into it. Too often college is coated in debt and can become more of an excuse to postpone adulthood than a stepping stone to it. 

Don't go to college for a slip of paper. Don't expect college to prove your worth, or guarantee your future employment. Go to learn. Go to be challenged. To stretch your thinking. Go to college with the mindset of every dollar spent being a coin drop in your mental knowledge bucket. 

What do you want your children to learn?

What is really critical for your child to know for adulthood? Let's go beyond biology or astronomy and look at basic life skills. How well do you know your child? Do you have a read on their unique personality style - how they are motivated, how they learn, and how they grow?

What about confidence? This can be an absolute game-changer in our society. Is your child unsure, or motivated? Do they have confidence in moving forward, being independent, and critical thinking?

When you leave college, you are graded in life not by "what did you learn?" but "What did you DO?"

If life skills are the most important component, and you're looking at what I listed above, college is only one way to achieve this. Maybe college grading and testing sends waves of inadequacy over your child. My brothers barely graduated high school - the traditional educational model was not for them. Yet they both lived abroad for years, gathering a perspective of the world much wider than their sheltered friends who had never left their hometown.

My 'Uneducated" brothers' podcasts:

How are you allowing your child to get "life experience"? Don't just throw college out, but don't view college as "life experience." It is "college experience." 

You have to have social skills. Connections. Relationships with others that get your foot in the door. Quite honestly...if you believe learning stops once you get your degree, you might as well not waste your money (or your college debt). Learning is life-long, and especially in today's landscape, that college degree in technology may be obsolete before you even complete the program! 

Grades and numbers aren't the only things that get you there. Letters behind your name mean nothing without the action and implementation...and struggle of getting out there and applying that knowledge you've acquired. In our 48 Days Coaching Mastery Program, we require 48+ hours of paid coaching before someone is ever certified. It's not just about saying you know how to coach, but the actual application of it that we're looking for. 

"Failure" is a valuable life lesson

One of the most important lessons we can allow our children to have is to let them "fail". Let them struggle. And I put "failure" in quotes because I only see it as true failure if they don't learn from it. Otherwise, it's a stepping stone in their life lessons that will help them grow. It may be a lesson learned in what works, or what they don't want - that can be a powerful process as well! Give grace to grow. Look at things as "learning opportunities". 

Do you have a growth mindset, or a fixed mindset?

Ask questions like:

  • What does this make possible?
  • Where can I go from here (maybe it's only up, but that's a start!)
  • What can I learn from this?

When you instill a growth mindset in your children, the pressure isn't so high on what path they take after high school. They are going to learn regardless.

With Functional Education, there are no classroom walls around what you can learn. There are no grade levels telling you when you've learned "enough." And no matter where they are or what they do, they have an opportunity to learn something. 

After High School, You can...

  • Go to college (with no college debt - check out all of the scholarships available!)
  • Go overseas - immerse yourself in a different culture - for school or just for life!
  • Apprentice/Shadow/Volunteer - test-drive your desired professions and learn about if it really IS a fit for you.
  • Use your college money to create that first film, write that first book, etc - dive in and learn the same content as you are creating your first work vs. paying for the lessons before you apply it. Dive in and learn from your mistakes. Sometimes you need to BE the director to know you don't want to be the director! 
  • Get a job - jump straight in and get some work experience to learn what you really thrive in (and whether a degree is even necessary). 
  • Build your own business - start entrepreneurial endeavors and see what you can create.
  • Travel - travel your state, your country, your world. Explore and observe - and learn what really resonates with you. 

Ashley Recommends:

What Does Your Child Need Most?

What are their desires? What are they passionate about. What life skills do they need to develop more? Maybe a "gap year" is critical for their growth...and everyone's budget!

Paying for your own phone, insurance, medical bills, car maintenance, rent...doing your own laundry, cooking your own meals, making decisions on what to invest in and what not to...these are all elements of adulthood your child will need to learn - where do they stand with these?

Your Weekly Challenge:A Contest!

Email me with your story. Tell me what is going on with your kids - where they are headed (and why). Share your own experience - what you did after high school (and what you may choose to do differently for your own children). 

Two randomly selected people will receive a signed copy of my father's book, Wisdom Meets Passion.  

Talk with your kids this week about their future. What are they envisioning? Do you have an agenda planned out for them already? Have you ever sat down and discussed this with them?

I am passionate that each of us has our own unique strengths that are important to share. You are powerful beyond measure. You make an impact. And so does everyone else in your family. The more you can understand that, know how to interconnect, and have grace, the more your family will thrive. Because ultimately, the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. 


Nathan and Ashley Logsdon

Questions or comments?

Personality styles, marriage/intimacy, parenting, education, minimalism or travel - what is pressing on your mind?

Or, hop on over to the Mama Says Namaste or Unschooling Families FB groups and ask your question there!

*Mama Says Namaste is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to,, Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates.

About the author, Ashley Logsdon


Ashley Logsdon is a Family and Personality Styles Coach and Lifelong Learner. She and her husband Nathan are RVing the States and unschooling their 3 girls. Her mission is to shift the mindsets of families from reaction to intention, and guide them in creating the family they love coming home to. Looking deeper than the surface, we assess the strengths, triggers, and simplifying your lifestyle so you truly recognize how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.

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