The Social Commons: Cuts in higher education means more debt for students and families

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Going to college is the American dream and a dream for many young people across the world. We are told that you have to get a university degree to find a decent good job because this will give you more opportunity and an easier life. Today, more than ever, it is almost always required one has a bachelor’s degree for an entry level job. The brutal reality that most people face six months after graduation is a letter in the mail stating hat it’s time to begin repaying your student loans. Government spending has been slashed and now it’s up to student’s to finance their education. Student debt has been on my mind lately due to the fact that I have just began my graduate program which required me to take out a loan. There has been a lot of media attention on the problems and causes of this crisis; increases in tuition, grants that once existed for low income students are now turned into loans,  government funding cut drastically, this means that more financial responsibility is placed on students and families, interest rates raised on federal loans – 6%, caps on federal loans causing students to turn to private banks which have astronomical interest rates, close to 10%. Public universities are beginning to run like for profit entities in order to maintain competitiveness among the vast talent pool of students. This is a problem because they are expanding amenities offered to students to look more appealing and this could have an impact on tuition increases. The university I attended began building a state of the art student recreation center in my last year, sports facilities updated and expanded, and new football coaches were hired. I can imagine this sports facility was not a low ticket item. Was this where student’s increased tuition was going? Higher education is becoming unimaginable for young people today especially if they have to take out loans and so many American’s are left with close $80,000 in debt even if they attend a public university. One of the reasons I decided to study in the UK was because it was more affordable. But even the UK is now seeing government cuts in higher education and tuition increases thus students are finding themselves graduated with loads of debt.

Why has the cost of education increased so much? Is this crisis due to the fact that government funding has been cut in half? Are universities spending money on the wrong things like amenities such as a rock climbing walls and new sports arenas? Are politicians trying to privatize public universities? Why are federal interest rates so high? Is the cost of taking on debt worth it in the long run – will you be forever indebted to your loans or will you find your dream job and live happily ever after?

Alarming stats: Aperian Global states “the cost of a college education in the United States has increased by 500 percent since 1985.” In the UK, grants that were once given to low income students are now loans BBC News. 44 million Americans who share $1.3 trillion in outstanding student debt, more than 16.7 million — nearly 38% — have balances below $10,000, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “If you look at the long-term trend, [college tuition] has been rising almost six percent above the rate of inflation,” said Ray Franke, a professor of education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. 

 

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