It’s no secret that student loan debt is on the rise in the United States, continuing to spread like a plague without a cure. While the cost of attending college continues to increase, so too does the number of people who find themselves unable to pay for a higher education. Even with grants and scholarships, most students will wind up having to borrow money from the government or a private lender at some point in order to obtain a university degree. It is so bad, in fact, it has gained attention from The White House, who estimates out of those who finish school with a bachelor’s degree, 70% of them graduate in serious debt. Not only is this dire for graduates, it’s also troublesome for the economy as a whole. Though given time to pay them back, jobs are not as easy to come by and wages are down, which makes achieving the “American Dream” that much harder; no longer can you buy a car, a house or save for retirement fresh out of college or, in many cases, ever. How does this make sense?
The crisis has been a talking point among politicians for some time, including presidential nominees who are scrambling for solutions regarding how to solve the problem. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has long been a proponent for those dealing with extraordinary financial strain due to having obtained student loans. In March of this year, Warren presented a plan for a complete overhaul of the Department of Education. Speaking on the Senate floor, Warren stated “It’s long past time for the Department of Education’s bank to clean up its act and start running the student loan program to benefit students—not private companies.”
Recent studies indicate that right now, student loan debt in America totals $1.2 trillion dollars (second only to outstanding mortgages) and one in four recipients of federal financial aid is either in default or delinquency on their loans. Roughly 40 million Americans carry some form of student loan debt, including those that are in forbearance or deferment, which proves an impossibly endless cycle of revolving, interest-laden arrears. Roughly half of the country’s current college population has indicated the possibility of accruing student loan debt is giving them pause about finishing college.
While the typical grace period for paying off student loans after college is ten years, it takes the majority of college graduates who hold a bachelor’s degree 21 years. Brendan Coughlin, who is the president of education finance for Citizens Financial Group, a private lender, recently said, “Students going to school understand that they’re going to have to pay back their loans over some time, but they’re not planning as well as they perhaps need to, to really understand the return on investment of their education, based on the career they want to have.”
This is a mixed message if ever there was one; people should get a college education because as long as you work hard, you can achieve your dreams. Except and unless you are already wealthy enough to pay for the education to make those dreams a reality, you likely must borrow from the government or a private lender. This, in turn, makes you a leech on the system and a cry-baby for whining about how you are unable to repay the money you borrowed without experiencing financial ruin, especially when you don’t have a Fortune 500 job waiting for you at the finish line. All while the government continues to bail out big banks and corporations who can’t pay their bills, which is what got us into this mess in the first place.
I don’t know about you, but this makes my head hurt. Though I’d like to lie down, I can’t because I’m too busy working in an effort to pay off my student loans.