The student debt in the United States is over $ 1.6 trillion.
This is a staggering figure that has skyrocketed in recent years to the point where student loans are now one of the largest forms of consumer debt in the country. This number rose significantly during the pandemic because many of those with loans took the opportunity to refuse payments for several months.
More than 43 million borrowers in the United States have student loan debt.
You will recall that the situation has become so alarming that presidential politics has become embroiled in debates over the enormous economic burden that all of this poses to American society. Some federal politicians have called for the development of a federal program to eliminate outstanding debt. Others have suggested a way to forgive people for student debt of $ 10,000, $ 20,000, or even $ 50,000.
People who have long forgotten what it means to be a college student are still paying their obligations after four, five, or six years on campus. I talked to friends who carry debt like a stone around their necks. They just get a job and think their monthly payments are life sentences.
My son just graduated from high school, so we were inundated with temptations to take student loans through the government or private lenders. Of course, these mailings make it all that easy by offering multi-year loans to cover countless expenses.
All I see in my mind is a student digging a hole, not quite realizing that he is trapped in the deepest part of it, continuing to dig.
Just the other day, I saw an email from the Attorney General of Arkansas asking students to “beware of scammers trying to take advantage of this.” The AG office might also issue a warning about legitimate student loans. All of them will quickly bury the student with money that seems almost free, but loans from the outset create financial barriers to every student’s success after graduation.
Naturally, some people will say that people with low incomes have no chance of getting higher education without loans. I am not belittling the problem of paying for college gifts. But so many people do not realize that after graduation they face decades of suffering. For many, and this can certainly be the case in Arkansas, paying someone with a college degree may not get them successful when they already have a student debt anchor around their neck.
And how many graduates are willing to capitalize on their ongoing careers without realizing how that debt is holding them back? Even with a college degree, they just can’t get ahead, and this is compounded by the purchase of new cars, the boat we all think we deserve after all the hard work, and naturally a home that is more than we can afford, but which is “necessary” because everyone else lives in a big house.
For too many people, student loans become a perpetual monthly commitment.
What is the answer? For those in debt, I don’t know if there is anything else other than living beyond their means and dedicating their lives to paying off the debt. For those planning to go to college, this means getting a job, getting scholarships as if their lives depended on it, and making sure that the loans they take are reasonably linked to the salary they will be demanding after they graduate from college.
Do not use student loans to fund a college lifestyle. Do whatever you can to avoid debt. If you use loans, limit your use to the actual spending on education – books, tuition, fees, etc. It just makes sense if you’re going to dig a hole, you should make it as shallow as possible.
Greg Harton is the editorial page editor of the Northwest Arkansas Democratic Bulletin. Email him at [email protected] nwadg.com or Twitter @NWAGreg.