Average student loan debt hit a record of nearly $30,000 per student last year, and has grown well beyond the rate of inflation for decades. In late February, the New York Times reported that the state of education in the U.S. was worsening. About 12 percent of student loans were considered “seriously delinquent”. Total student loan debt in the U.S. is now a staggering $1.2 trillion. The problem continues to worsen, as the growth in seriously delinquent loans grew by nearly 100 percent from 2010 to 2013.
The negative effects of this mountain of debt are disturbing. The average student borrows $30,000 to pay for college, and parents typically borrow (on average) more than $20,000. The average public university in Illinois where I teach (for example University of Illinois or Illinois State University) is nowhere near affordable for the “average” family. A family putting one child through college (and earning, for example, $60,000 to 70,000 a year) will need to cover an average of about $23,500 in total cost of attendance per year. This translates into a tremendous burden for parents and children – nearly $95,000 per student for four years. Half of that cost realistically materializes in the form of student loans (adding the average parental and student loans together), with the other half being paid for by parents who deplete their earnings and savings. The actual costs per family are likely to be much higher than $96,000, as recent estimates suggest that recent high school graduates on average will take nearly six years (not four) to graduate. Add to this the growing cost of living in America – covering rapidly increasing costs of food, health care, and consumer products – and student loan debt contributes to a “death of a thousand cuts” assault on America’s shrinking middle class.
Colleges are killing America.