Student Debt

A college student voices his opinion on education and student debt during the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City in 2011.

Every year, college is the expectation for so many high school seniors looking to make something of themselves. Every year, the price to do so rises. In fact, adjusting for inflation, the price of college literally doubled in America between 1989 and 2016, nowadays with an average four-year degree totaling $104,480.

As of 2018, the price of college was rising eight times faster than wages. If the educational cost to enter certain fields rises faster than the pay in those fields, what are students to do? For middle class kids today, college is less of an option and more of an expectation. In many fields, a bachelor’s degree is not a cherry on top, it is the bare minimum.

Even for the middle class, however, rarely anyone can afford college out-of-pocket these days, with 70% of students graduating with significant loans. Right now, 44 million American graduates collectively owe over $1.5 trillion in student loans. In no way is this normal, even for the United States. As of 2018, students left school with an average of $37,172 in student loans, increasing by $20,000 in only 13 years.

Having student debt is not a crime, but here in America, it can feel like one.

Those ravaged with student loan debt lose so many opportunities to further their careers and pursue their dreams. As a matter of course, they are less equipped to pay for graduate or medical school, buy a home, or even start a family. In some cases, a consequently low credit score comes with a whole other mountain of detriments.

We’re painted a pretty picture of post-graduation life, a white picket fence and a steady career that supports a family. Too often, though, this isn’t the case. Debt builds on itself, creating a heavy weight on the livelihoods of the graduates who bear it.

High costs and crazy loans are taking over education. The stress of affording college can be a major distraction from even getting a thorough education in the first place. When the price of college rises, we all lose. Discouraging potential students with a hefty price tag puts us behind the rest of the world, where countries are willing to invest in all students, not just those who can afford the bill.

The more that student debt makes college unappealing, especially for public-service where payoff for a degree is minimal, the less people we will have working in those fields. When we drown future generations in inescapable debt, the only people who profit are those with the power in higher education.

Even if we attack the root of the problem by making public colleges completely free for 44 million Americans, the massive weight of student loan debt will stay. We have to wipe the slate clean for people who dared to go to college and make something of themselves — canceling all student debt is the only equitable way to handle this crisis.

Taking out a loan for an education is not something that should need to be forgiven in the first place. Education is a human right, and by making it only accessible to those with enough financial means from the beginning goes completely against American values of “equal opportunity.”