In order to be happy, successful, and get a good-paying job, you must go to college.

Parents and high school guidance counselors have touted these words of wisdom to young people for decades. And for some students, this message is undoubtedly accurate. But for many others, the walloping debt that comes with a degree makes going to college simply not worth it.

Tuition for public and private colleges has ballooned by 500% over the last 30 years, and only continues to go up. Private and public colleges cost an average of $29,000 and $21,706 per year, respectively. Many schools like Tufts University and Bates College will set the family back by over twice that amount. These ridiculously fat price tags have lead to the average college graduate walking away with about $27,000 in student loan debt.

But, at least grads can pay off their debt quickly, since they will land a good job thanks to their college degree. Right?

Not quite. As of last year, 53% of recent college graduates were jobless or underemployed.

News sources like NBC and CNN dispense headlines like “Thanks to rising tuition and a tough job market, college seniors graduated with $27,000 in debt.” Sure, the job market is tough, but no one ever talks about government’s role in exorbitant tuition fees and colossal student debts.

Government student loans and grants were created to help low income families afford college. But now, almost 60% of college students borrow money from the government to pay for their education. As usual, a government program that started with good intentions has done more harm than good. Essentially, any student can qualify for as much money as they need to cover their education, no matter how high the tuition is. This enables colleges to continue to increase tuition, because no matter what they charge, students will always be able to finance it.

Washington bureaucrats have been pushing unlimited government student loans for years. President Obama says this student entitlement money is necessary to ensure that young people are “getting the education they need.”

Nonsense. The free market, without government aid, would drive college prices down and make it more affordable for everyone. By making government student loans unlimited and over-accessible, colleges have no incentive to compete by lowering tuition. If most students paid their own way, schools would be forced to lower tuition to remain competitive and attract the best, brightest young people.

If government got out of the way, college costs would be lower, and people would stop asking, “Is a degree worth the expense?

As it stands now, college is clearly not worth the debt for many young people. 14% of waiters and 16.5% of bartenders in the US have a bachelor’s degree. And 85% of students move back in with Mom and Dad after graduation.

NewKristinTateICONWorse still, most colleges offer expensive degrees that provide little in the way of job prospects. The job opportunities for Gender Studies and Art History majors, for example, are far fewer than the number of students pursuing these degrees. Many of these graduates are in for a rude awakening upon graduation when they realize their skills are not in high demand in today’s economy.

Yet for some reason, high school guidance counselors make students feel as though a bachelor’s degree is a golden ticket to prosperity. High schoolers are made to feel like failures if they don’t enroll in college, when in reality, there are plenty of viable alternatives. Vocational and trade schools are an acceptable, more affordable option in many cases. Community colleges are also very underrated, and allow students to explore diverse subject areas without going broke.

Until Washington stops indirectly inflating the price of college tuition, many degrees are simply not worth the cost. But hey, at least the 85% of students who end up back at home after graduation get to enjoy Mom’s lasagna once again!

Kristin Tate | Emerson College | @KristinBTate