There’s a rhyme that starts “For want of a nail the shoe was lost.”

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Fewer and fewer entry-level white-collar jobs are available for applicants with just a high school diploma and some life experience. Most require at least a bachelor’s degree. Why is this?

Fewer and fewer high schools are graduating successful students. Employers, at least as far as Peter Morici, an economist and professor at the University of Maryland Smith School of Business, is concerned, saw “a few years of college [becoming] a proxy for employers that young applicants had what a decent high school diploma should guarantee but no longer did.”

So, a recently graduated high school student with any hopes of professional employment in a white-collar profession needs to have at the least diploma of some kind — no doubt preferably a four-year diploma — from an institute of higher learning other than her high school.

Which usually means student loans.

Which, thanks to the increasing tuition prices for the majority of four-year universities and colleges, means a lot in student loans.


While college tuition has steadily risen, wages haven’t — at least not with the same first-to-the-moon speed. So those degree-requiring entry-level jobs aren’t providing wages that allow for students to pay back those loans. (Not to mention the fact that, when you get right down to it, most of those entry-level jobs don’t really require that degree. Employers still have to train new hires — even those with degrees. Again, from Morici: “Requiring some higher education may be an easy way of screening an applicant’s native intelligence, but many jobs simply don’t pay enough for students to repay six figure debts in a decade or so.”)


For want of a job, a degree was sought.
For want of a degree, student loans were sought.
For want of a way to repay those loans, a job — ANY job — was taken that still didn’t pay enough and there you are, 23-years-old, saddled with thousands of dollars in debt.

It’s not a clean rhythm, not like losing a kingdom for a nail. It’s more like separate breaths of air that go into filling a balloon. All of these disparate factors — diplomas, tuition, job markets, loans, the economy — are responsible for the fast growing student loan bubble we’re seeing inflate before our eyes. Is the pop inevitable?

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