High school seniors across America are applying to colleges, getting ready to start their first steps in planning for their future. Deciding the right college to embark on can be a very nerve-wracking process, not to mention the financial costs that attending higher education entails. Adults pressure us to make the right decision and be the best we can be, but it comes at a cost. American families are carrying about $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, a massive burden that amounts to nearly 8% of the national income.
Millions of graduates leave colleges and universities with piles of debt, leaving them ill-prepared to start a life on their own. With an average loan balance of over $34,000 (as of 2017), recent graduates who struggle with these higher student debt balances are less likely to get married and start a family, start a small business or company, buy a house, be able to withstand the financial crisis, or save for retirement.
This issue is affecting the teenage to young adult generation more drastically than past generations. Since 1987, there has been a 213% increase in college tuition alone.
In addition to the high tuition increase, facilities are higher quality than ever, as competition between institutions increases to attract students. Simply put, students in the present cannot afford to attend college. Around 86% of newly enrolled, full-time undergraduate students at four-year colleges and universities receive financial aid.
If we continue like this, going to college will no longer be a viable option for the middle to lower classes. However, there is no easy solution to this mass problem. Because student debt accounts for so much of the national debt, the solution only remains in a federal change. As of now, student loans are one of the only types of debt that cannot be resolved through bankruptcy. Credit card debt can be written off (with a price of a credit deduction!) but student loans will remain.
One way to start to solve the issue of the student debt crisis could be to include it when filing for bankruptcy. Another solution to this problem could be lowering the interest rates on student loans. Because college is already a huge business, the federal government could lower interest rates on student loans and they would still make tons of money. If interest rates were lowered, graduates may even be able to pay them back easier.
A rather liberal approach to helping student debt could be to raise taxes in areas that have particularly high revenue. Taxing large businesses or corporations would result in large amounts of money that could combat the extreme national debt caused from higher education. Whatever option seems most viable, we must settle and start the process. At the rate this problem has been increasing, the country may no longer be able to keep up in the coming years.
Madison Brown is a senior at Newburyport High School.