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The terrifying reality of student debt

Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever before.

Our country owes more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, which is $620 billion more than the total United States credit card debt. More than 44.2 million Americans owe some type of a student loan payment.

Not to mention, 20 percent of those borrowers are behind on their payments.

As a college student who will be graduating with student loan debt, the struggle is very much real and terrifying. A higher education is heavily emphasized in our country, yet for so many Americans, it is nearly impossible to obtain a degree without accumulating debt.

The average price of college has increased by 400 percent over the past 30 years, while unfortunately, the average household income has remained in the same steady range. Average tuition for a public university is perhaps the most inexpensive route for students at $9,970 for in-state residents, but multiply it by the four or five years it takes an average student to graduate and the number becomes significantly larger.

Prices inevitably get worse for out-of-state residents and private universities. The average cost of tuition for out-of-state residents attending public universities is $34,740, while private universities average tuition costs $25,620.

One year of full-tuition at a university could very well cost more than a student’s entry-level job income even after graduating with a degree. Never mind the costs medical and law school students find themselves swimming in.

This is an astronomically large issue, and it has been a problem for several years. In fact, although millennials are currently in the limelight for student debt, AARP warns the fastest-growing category of student loan debtors are older than 60. Many of the retirees in this category forgo their Social Security payment to pay for student loans.

There are many negative effects of our student loan debt crisis, with many of them being personal. Those who struggle with student debt often cannot begin saving for retirement, afford to buy a home or set aside savings. Sadly as well, many debtors admit their debt has led to them putting off decisions about marriage and children.

However, the negative effects of this crisis extend into our overall economy, with heavy implications. A recent paper published at the Levy Economics Institute discovered if the government canceled the debt it owns and bought out the remaining private creditors, the gross domestic product would skyrocket from between $86 billion and $108 billion per year within the next 10 years.

The paper was aimed at students who owe public-school-related debt, but what about those who risked an education at a prestigious private university, like many of my classmates?

For one, private universities are not doing nearly enough to make it financially possible for potential students to attend their school, especially those with family legacies and ties to the university.

Achieving scholarships is far more challenging than it should be for my fellow classmates and I, and the scholarship amounts are often drastically low in comparison with tuition rates. Essentially, the scholarships we do get barely make a dent.

Yes, $1.5 trillion is a lot of money to forgive in the next decade, but let us not forget $1.5 trillion was made in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Americans not too long ago. So we can continue to line the pockets of those who are already benefitting, but we cannot rescue the true victims of the student debt crisis––the working and middle class?

We live in a system where on one hand we are told we have to go to college, but then the path to get there is out of reach for the large majority. Something must be done, or our nation and its citizens will drown.

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