The student loan crisis has recently played an important role in the Democratic presidential debates, with Democratic candidates pushing for solutions that look a lot like the policies that put us here in the first place. But as they pursue an agenda that would essentially reward people for owing money, reports surfaced showing that many are taking out nearly half a million dollars in student loans. What’s worse, many expect the government will do something to help them.
According to a CNBC report, while the average college graduate leaves school owing $30,000, a $20,000 increase from the 1990s, there’s a growing number of graduates owing more than $100,000.
In the 2003-4 academic year, 51,000 graduates had large sums of student debt, while in the 2015-16 period, around 178,000 owed more than $100,000. In 2019, CNBC reported, over 6 percent of all student loan borrowers owe that much —up from 5.4 percent.
Currently, the US Department of Education reports that students pay an average of $16,757 for “undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board … at public institutions” per year. Because most students pursue four-year college degrees, students are paying an average of $68,000. However, there are states where schools will be more expensive than others. At the University of Colorado at Boulder, for instance, the average student pays $28,750 for the full package per year. This adds up to over $100,000 for a four-year degree.
Considering that some students choose to work part-time to help lessen their debt, those who are graduating owing the full amount might be under the impression they will quickly find gainful employment, and that their initial salary will be enough to help cover their expenses. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true, as graduates often struggle to find work in their area of expertise. Additionally, graduates who do end up working in their field quickly discover they aren’t able to afford their loans. As they pay the minimum monthly or end up defaulting, their credit suffers.
As CNBC chronicles, many graduates end up suffering a great deal in their personal lives due to the lack of access to loans. As a result, purchasing a home or starting a business becomes nearly impossible.
While government’s ongoing involvement in the student loan business has considerably inflated the cost of higher education in the United States, it is the student who decides to take on debt to obtain a degree without properly evaluating the market beforehand. In many cases, the graduate feels his degree is virtually useless as he ends up taking on unrelated work to pay the bills. And at times, the graduate fails to find work that pays what he imagined he would initially make, and the deception is just as emotionally draining, as he ends up with higher debt than he should have taken.
Unfortunately, an overall lack of basic financial knowledge coupled with government’s easy-money policies created the perfect storm, giving many students the idea that they were entitled to an education. And it is precisely because of this belief that they took on the loans without looking back.
As the number of young adults pursuing college degrees continues to grow, we’re also seeing an increase in the amount they borrow. And with candidates such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren promising to either eliminate student debt altogether or at least erase a major portion of it, young Americans are, once again, being told they should not worry about taking on debt.
To them, the sky’s the limit.
For a Real Fix, Government Must Get out of the Way
When the government took on the loan business, it did so with the promise of giving everyone and anyone the chance to get a college degree. That means that when you’re young and you want to go to college, you can’t be denied a loan because of poor or no credit. In other words, individuals can take on large debt without cosigners or credit checks. The easy access to money made a number of people who couldn’t afford their loan to make very bad decisions. Now, they want the government to forgive their loans. And if Democratic politicians have anything to say about it, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
As politicians continue to promise privileges in exchange for votes, by telling Americans they have a “right” to education, we forget to see this problem for what it is: the result of a lack of personal responsibility.
While it is true that the government did create this mess, it is up to us to say no to their traps. And yet, most of us still say yes indiscriminately.