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Kids are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Their answer may be an astronaut or a doctor. Obviously with these career choices obtaining a college degree is a requirement, but do they realize what burdens that degree comes with? Over 44.2 million Americans have student loan debt looming over their heads with the average amount of debt being a whopping $1.5 trillion. Why is this happening and how is this okay? The American life is all about seeking dreams and opportunity, but that is hindered by the cost of education. Most careers today require at least a bachelor’s degree, which is understandable, but the cost of getting that degree pushes people away from college and they are left performing jobs they do not want just to get by. America needs to lower their education costs and setup a plan for graduating students so their student loan debt is either manageable or nonexistent.
This year student loan debt has reached an all time high surpassing that of credit card debt and auto loans. The average American graduates from college with over $30,000 in student loans. These loans are designed to appeal to students in a positive way by grabbing their attention and allowing them to further their education when they may not have the money upfront. The ease of applying and securing a student loan is no mistake as there really is no reason for a student not to get a loan, other than the debt to come of course. The tuition prices in the United States have only been rising. In fact, the price of college tuition from 2007 to 2019 has risen 59.3%, which is almost a $12,000 difference. With this significant inflation, both students and their parents are forced to borrow money to pay for education.
In an article about the student loan debt crisis written by Anthony Oneal, he states, “And we can’t talk about the mentality behind the student loan crisis without calling out the fact that while student loans are meant to make life easier for students, they do just the opposite”. There is an immense pressure that is put on students to pay off their loans. Oneal goes on to mention that being in debt causes significant health issues including stress, depression, and even suicide. No debt should be too extreme where a person feels their only way out is to end their life.
Michele Nielsen is an Old Dominion University alumna and received her doctorate of physical therapy in 2006. She opened her own physical therapy clinic in Virginia Beach in 2016 where she works as a physical therapist. When asked if she had any student debt she stated, “I graduated in 2006 with my DPT and I am still trying to pay off my student loans. My parents were generous enough to pay off some of my debt for me, but it feels like it will never go away”. A mechanical engineering student named Hannah Thompson currently attends George Mason University and will be going into her junior year. She was asked how her financial journey has been thus far to which she replied, “I have already had to take out student loans and they are climbing fast. I would like to go on and get my master’s degree, but I’m not sure I can afford it. I am hopeful that once I get a job as an engineer, it will pay off my loans”. Here are two examples of a person with their dream job still in debt, and a student working towards their dream job and in debt. Both are willing to put in the work for their dream job, and both will suffer the consequences of debt.
So now the big questions are, why is this crisis happening and what can we do to fix it? Basically very little public funding is given to public colleges and private colleges receive no state funding whatsoever. The way to make up that loss is to raise the student’s tuition and fees. There are already some programs in place to help relieve students of their debt including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, Income-Based Repayment programs, and the Forgiveness with Pay As You Earn program just to name a few. These forgiveness programs are designed to pay off student debt quickly and painlessly but are not permanent and could disappear at anytime. Students should be aware of scams with specific debt relief companies that charge you costly fees to use their services.
There are many factors why a student may not want to further their education, but the risk of getting into unmanageable debt should not be one of them. College education is seen as a privilege in America but maybe it should be seen as a right. The forgiveness programs are great for graduated students, but what about future students? If education expenses keep rising at the rate that they are, American’s can expect to see student loan debt skyrocket. The student debt crisis is unacceptable and a change needs to happen.
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