For many, an education from Lane appears to have depreciated.

For the first time in nearly five decades, Lane may be at risk of losing its ability to offer financial aid to its students in the future if the number of former students in default continues to rise, according to the college’s financial aid office.

This is surprising, to say the least, considering the financial agreements between Lane, its students and their federal lenders have been allowed to operate largely without incident — until this recent hiccup.

Even more surprising is Lane was statistically responsible for approximately 13 percent of Oregon’s federal loan defaults in 2011, the last year it was calculated.

According to Lane Director of Financial Aid Helen Faith, an average of 77 percent of Lane students accepted federal aid during those three years  — several million dollars each year that flows through the college and the community.

It’s hard to say at this time what the absence of students’ federal dollars could mean for the community if Lane were to lose its ability to offer financial aid.

Lane plays an integral role in many aspects of the region’s economy. It trains diesel mechanics, nurses, dental hygienists, pilots and paramedics, among other careers

During a campaign interview with The Torch, former student and current Lane Board of Education member Matthew Keating proclaimed Lane as the premiere job training center in Lane County, with 85 percent of its graduates remaining in the county as they pursue their professional careers.

“I can’t underscore enough the importance of supporting a system that is essentially the economic engine that drives Lane County,” Keating said to the editorial board in February.

Some of Lane’s economic roots are less obvious. The college’s aviation program brings flights in and out of the region and is a big reason why the Eugene Airport operates at current levels.

Steve Boulton, director of Lane’s Aviation Maintenance and Flight Technology program, said the relationship is reciprocal

“This program plays an integral part in the Lane County economy,” Boulton said. “If we weren’t here, the first thing that would happen is the FAA would shut down a tower, and that would be a huge step back for the airport.”

The sudden downsizing of Eugene’s only airport would depress the local economy.

In 2008, the region lost one of its largest employers when Hynix closed its Eugene plant, pouring approximately 1,100 employees back into the economy. While the Hynix closure was a crisis, it would be microchip-sized compared to what could happen if Lane’s economic influence is reduced.

Clearly, the college that helps keep our economy humming can’t afford to lose its ability to disburse financial aid.

When it comes down to it, everything in this world besides this newspaper is literally outside your hands. If you’re going to worry, worry about what you can control.

You can’t file for bankruptcy and ditch your student loan debt.

Treat lenders like you would thieves — question each number, each fee, and interest rate presented to you. Plan for tomorrow by making financial literacy a top priority. Be careful about how much money you borrow, because one day, you will have to pay it back, with interest.