Rising College Debt. What’s Wrong?

College Debt Caused by College Un-readiness

grad-cap-shortHere’s a crash course on how college un-readiness drives up college costs by 25 to 50+% — for 65% of students.

Despite their great high school grades, the majority of high school grads aren’t self-sufficient enough to meet the challenges of being on their own in college. This fact causes many, many problems. Students don’t know what’s wrong, much less how to fix it. Here are just a few parts of the problem that add semesters and light the fuse on sky-rocketing costs.

fortune-logo “A 4-year degree is rapidly turning into a 6-year degree.”
“A 4-year degree is now ‘atypical.’”



1: Over-busy students squeeze study out of their days.

Teens are tired when they turn to study.

Young people over-schedule themselves.  Busyness is killing study time and study quality.

61% of college-bound high school seniors study, at most, 5 hours per week.
Another 15% study 6-10 hours a week.

– “The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2013”

5 hours a week is about 15% of the time that college expects a student
to spend on study.

Why, then, are so many high schoolers’ grades excellent? High school students have mastered the art of “last-minute cramming.” Skilled crammers can earn “excellent grades” in high school.

FYI: Crammed material lasts only a few days. It’s long-gone when students need it in college. College courses start, expecting strong background knowledge. It’s not there, and students are in trouble the first week of classes.

FYI: Cramming is the only method most students know. It will fail them in college. Too much to cram. Now what?

The College Smart series shows how to solve this problem and still have fun.

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2: College students don’t study nearly enough.

Students are expected to learn lots of information — outside of class (on their own).

Given a normal course load of 15-18 credits,
college students should be studying 30+ hours a week —
roughly 2-3 hours of study for every hour spent in class.

FYI: Many students who have always gotten A’s and B’s mistakenly believe the demands of college are exaggerated. They feel they’re “smart enough” to handle a college course load without dramatically adjusting their old high school routines of studying about 5 hours a week. (Cause 1) This doesn’t work.

See how little 61% of college-bound high school students studied in Cause 1? Oddly enough, that’s almost exactly the number of students who don’t graduate from college on-time.

The College Smart series gives students a true-to-life view of the study college expects and how they can start to prepare right now.

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3: Students don’t know what study really means or how to go about it.

For many, study strategies haven’t developed since 6th grade.

  • Most student study techniques are not mature enough to manage the growing difficulty/complexity of their coursework.
  • Learning means spending time and effort with the material, really absorbing and understanding information. Filing it away for future use. Students don’t know how.
  • Students often study amid distractions.

FYI: In college, “homework” is keeping up with the readings, understanding the material, seeing relationships from concept to concept, and “filing” it all in the student’s memory bank to be used later in life. Mature study takes time and effort.

The College Smart series gives your student a gift of knowing how to study and get things done!




4: Students can’t control their time. They fall behind. No way to catch up.

Chalk it up to being busy and procrastination, along with not paying attention to time or what they have to get done. Students say, “I’ll study/work later.” They don’t. Or they do it hurriedly in a time-crunch.

  • Most college students have never learned to manage time. For example, their friends are all going to hang out at the coffee shop. That makes reading history far less appealing.
  • They “fake it” in class. Preparing for a college class means reading and learning for a class discussion. To “solve” being unprepared, students  sit in the back of the class and keep their heads down.

FYI: Profs don’t track that students are keeping up. Probably not very much gets done. Students procrastinate because they think they can. When they’re hopelessly behind, students just blindly hope something will happen to “save” them. It doesn’t happen.

FYI: College covers about twice the material in half the time of high school. Once behind, there’s no way to catch up. A test rolls around …. The student hasn’t done all the readings, much less studied the material. Papers and projects are done at the last minute. Their low grades shocks them. Students cope by dropping courses. And that’s when the debt begins to mount. See Cause 6 but don’t skip Cause 5.

The College Smart series shows your student how to “make room for study” — and study efficiently.


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5: Cramming fails in college. Too much to cram.

Fewer tests. Each grade really counts. Cramming won’t work.

1 out of 3 freshmen frequently report feeling
“overwhelmed by all I had to do.”*  Yet they don’t “make time” for work.

  – “The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2012,

Let’s say a course’s grade depends on 3 tests. A student crams and “bombs” the 1st test. One-third of the final grade is already “blown.” Yet …

  • Students continue to count on cramming. After one low grade, they think, “I wonder what happened? It’ll work next time. It always has.” It doesn’t.
  • For most students, “cramming” is all they know. They receive more low grades, perhaps in a few courses. The semester keeps rolling.
  • Problems worsen. The student denies them. “This has never happened to me before.” The student is sure something will happen to save him/her. It won’t.

All of this goes back to the very basic personal qualities of managing time for study, making wise daily decisions, and having a sense of organization and responsibility.  All these qualities and more are talked about in the Books section.

FYI: Grades are based on the standards set at the beginning of the semester. With fewer tests and few quizzes, each grade counts heavily toward the final grade. Students must work regularly throughout the semester to keep up with readings. And be ready for tests when they come. Huge problem. The majority of students don’t know how to study.

The College Smart series explains the very real cause-effect relationship between the time/effort spent and the grades earned.



6: Low grades. It’s decision time. No good options.

Only extra semesters.

  • Drop the course & retake it: to avoid the low grade and lighten the workload. But this course must be paid for later on, when the other course is added. What if this happens in more than one course? It often does, adding semesters for 65% of students.
  • Take the low grade. Students often do this. But this low grade (or low grades in a couple of courses) will  lower the overall grade-point.  Now the student no longer qualifies for his/her major.
  • Need to switch majors? New requirements add more semesters. Some already completed (paid for) courses no longer count toward graduation in the new major. A new major means new requirements. More courses = More Semesters = More $$$$.

FYI: College expects students to be independent and accountable. They want to be, but they don’t know how to handle it. 

The College Smart series shows how to save on tuition and graduate on time.

For all of these reasons and many more, 
65% of students often lose their dreams, and greatly increase their debt.

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Low grades. It’s decision time. No “good” options.

  • Drop the course & retake it: to avoid the low grade, lighten the workload, or to rid themselves of morning classes to offset sleep deprivation.  But this choice adds another course to the degree and spends more money.
  • Take the low grade. Students often do this. But this low grade (or grades in a couple of courses) may lower the overall grade-point.  Now the student no longer qualifies for his/her major. Time to switch majors.
  • Need to switch majors? Now different requirements add more semesters. Some already completed (paid for) courses no longer count toward graduation in the new major. A new major means new requirements. More courses = More Semesters = More $$$$.


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Un-readiness = Low grades
Low grades  =  Extra semesters/years
Extra semesters/years = more $$$$$, lost dreams

All of the debt and waste of unready students prompted me to write the College Smart book series. My 12 strategies grow out of these and many other causes. 
Reminder: 40% of college students are still going to college in Year 7! Don’t miss out. These books can help you!

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Your Solution

College Smart Books replace 12 self-defeating habits with strategies for success.

In college. Students take charge, feel good about themselves, reduce their stresses, organize themselves, succeed in their studies—and still have time for fun.

In their first job. As employees, these students will know what’s expected of them: to be responsible, take initiative, complete assignments on-time, plan ahead.

to name just a few sought-after qualities. Employers will regard College Smart students as coming with batteries included! These students will go places.

The book that gets students ready for BOTH worlds. Help your child achieve his/her dreams.


While this has been a bird’s-eye view of only a few instances of “what goes wrong,” it is, unfortunately, true to life. Students need to be ready before they go. If you would like to ask Dr. Bob a question, contact him at info@getcollegesmart.com.

I’ll tell you what you should know about college: preparing for it, admissions, succeeding, and starting a career. You need to know the facts.

Next page: For Educators



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