Career-path choices crucial in age of student debt

WASHINGTON — The average member of the Class of 2014 will graduate with about $30,000 in student-loan debt. It’s the fastest-growing form of debt in the United States.

That’s not the crisis, Gene Natali Jr., a financial expert and co-author of “The Missing Semester,” tells WTOP.

“Education is unarguably the greatest form of empowerment … $30,000 for a college education, I would call that a good investment,” he says.

The crisis comes when it comes to paying the money back.

“We’re not teaching these very same students how to repay that debt, how to live in relation with money,” he says.

It’s important for high schoolers to consider career paths that will help pay back debts, Natali says.

And they shouldn’t do it on their own. He says it requires “a dinner-table conversation” among the whole family about what to study and what careers to pursue.

“When you’re young, you’re in complete control of your future. You can look at those careers, decide which ones you like, which ones are a fit for you – and (ask) does it make sense financially,” Natali says.

It’s a conversation students need to have with family and with high school career counselors.

When Natali was in college, he says, just the fact of having a degree would ensure success.

“The path was, you go to college, you get a job. It is going to take a bit more planning on the part of students now, and I think these students are up to the task.

“A good degree, paired with hard work, is absolutely a path to success. Just the degree part of it may not be enough.”

WTOP’s Veronica Robinson contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on the WTOP Facebook page.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up