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Is Higher Education Still Worth It?

Student loan debt has reached a trillion dollars in this country, and Congress has been unable to prevent the interest rates of some federally subsidized student loans from doubling. With the skyrocketing cost of higher education, is it still worth it?

Paul Umbach told Host Frank Stasio that he thinks so.

"Economists have found that college educated people are more likely to vote, more likely to volunteer..." he said. 

Umbach is an associate professor of Higher Education in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Adult and Higher Education at North Carolina State University.

As far as student loans go, Doug Lederman, editor of Inside Higher Ed blames college for letting interest rates double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 in July.

"Historically, for about 20 years, Congress set the rate through sort of a political process," he said. "And that's how it's been up until now."

Congress has been unable to reach an agreement bringing loan rates on federally Subsidized Stafford Loans back down to their previous level.

David Zonderman, a history professor at N.C. State University said that historically, college wasn't as egalitarian as it is today. It wasn't until the use of the G.I Bill after World War II that things changed.

"That's what really opens up college education to a lot of young guys that never would have thought of it," he said.

Lindsay Moriarty, owner of Monuts Donuts in Durham went to grad school but was unable to find a job after college. She opened up her bakery instead, but she says she is glad she got an education.

"I like to think of it as I took the scenic route to donut making. I don't regret it," she said. "I think I met a great group of people, and have a social network."

Host Frank Stasio talks about it with Doug Lederman, editor of Inside Higher Ed; Paul Umbach, associate professor of Higher Education in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Adult and Higher Education at North Carolina State University; David Zonderman, a professor of history at N.C. State University; and Lindsay Moriarty, owner of Monuts Donuts in Durham.

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Alex Granados joined The State of Things in July 2010. He got his start in radio as an intern for the show in 2005 and loved it so much that after trying his hand as a government reporter, reader liaison, features, copy and editorial page editor at a small newspaper in Manassas, Virginia, he returned to WUNC. Born in Baltimore but raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, Alex moved to Raleigh in time to do third grade twice and adjust to public school after having spent years in the sheltered confines of a Christian elementary education. Alex received a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has a minor in philosophy, which basically means that he used to think he was really smart but realized he wasn’t in time to switch majors. Fishing, reading science fiction, watching crazy movies, writing bad short stories, and shooting pool are some of his favorite things to do. Alex still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he is holding out for astronaut.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.