Young adults take on debt to pay for better future

A bachelor's degree in international politics could get one far, correct? That's what my friend Miriam thought when she graduated from George Mason University in spring 2007. Needing to unwind after an arduous school year, she opted to work as a skin-care product specialist at a high-end department store during the summer, living a 20-something female's dream life filled with hefty discounts on designer handbags and shoes, free cosmetics, short work days, all while earning $25 an hour.

She bought a few diamond bracelets, a new car, stocked her closet to the brim with Gucci and Prada, sent out job applications in between--and before she knew, a year had passed. Miriam had everything she wanted, except for the job she fantasized about in countless all-night study sessions.

Positive her calling didn't involve anti-wrinkle creams and used cotton balls, Miriam took out a $30,000 loan to pursue a master's degree in public administration from George Mason. Coveted by individuals yearning to work in the government sector, this broad degree offers its recipients a much higher probability of finding a well-paying job (quickly) than a bachelor's in international politics.