Last updated: June 13. 2014 2:42PM - 432 Views
A Daily Journal editorial

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Richmond County graduates have a reason to be proud this weekend. The high school diploma for which you have withstood history and civics classes, math you’ll probably never again use in the real world and a complicated matrix of state-imposed requirements is now in your hands.

Despite the difficulties, you have successfully completed your trials and are now on your way to becoming the person you will be when you are 45. We want you to think about that for a few moments.

Many of you have earned scholarships to colleges in North Carolina, the home of some of the nation’s greatest universities and private colleges.

But most of you, should you choose to pursue a path toward higher education, will be quickly whisked through a series of almost too-good-to-be-true steps to finance your four-to-six year undergraduate studies. You will receive a little assistance from the state in the form of Pell grants and conditional residency grants, but the majority of your funding will come from federally subsidized loans.

Read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Education is an investment, but too much student loan debt can derail young adults as they begin their careers. Seek the lowest interest rates and treat loan agreements as exactly what they are — contracts. If a lender offers unfavorable terms, shop around.

You may also consider reducing your debt burden by starting your education at one of our state’s fine community colleges. We have an excellent institution right here in Richmond County.

The next time you graduate, it will be with a two-or-four-year degree, and you’ll likely be in considerable debt the moment you begin pounding the proverbial pavement in search of a job in a shrinking market that is more competitive than ever.

And then, you will need a place to live. Transportation. Utilities. Insurance. Groceries. Gas.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance is no longer optional (or — in many cases — affordable.) You, or if you’re extremely fortunate, your employer, will have to pay for that, too.

High school and college graduates entering the work force often feel like the deck’s stacked against them. In light of the economic downturn, that’s more true today than ever before.

When it comes to education, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. From elementary school onward, students are pushed toward four-year universities and the student-loan debt that often comes with the bargain.

For students who’ve carefully charted a career path that requires a bachelor’s or graduate degree, university’s a necessary step. But those still finding themselves and exploring future careers needn’t feel pressured to go to a residential four-year college because they think it’s the thing to do.

We encourage Richmond County graduates to look at all the options. For some, learning a skilled trade or completing the first two years of that four-year degree at Richmond Community College could be the right choice. For others, joining the military or entering the Peace Corps could be the best path.

Whether your post-graduation plans involve a four-year college, community college, the military or the work force, we wish you success in all your endeavors. As the nation and state continue to recover from the Great Recession, today’s high school grads may find it tougher to establish themselves in the working world than past generations.

There are obstacles, to be sure, but each obstacle can be overcome with hard work and the determination to succeed.

Your journey into adulthood didn’t end with the turning of the tassel. It’s only just begun.

Richmond Senior High School and the Leak Street School have given you a firm foundation in the fundamentals. Building on that foundation is up to you.

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