Households Owing Student Loan Debt At All-Time High

student loan debt Credit Seogjoo Hwang[/caption]

It’s no secret that education has become a controversial topic across the nation. With the election fast approaching, few candidates have taken a meaningful stance on falling educational standards, budget cuts to essential programs, and the rising cost of higher education. A recent Pew study now shows that the number of households owing student loan debt is at an all-time high. In fact, one in five households now owe some form of student loan debt nationally.

The United States has been falling behind in regards to international standards in education for decades. The government needs to decide whether or not it views higher education as something that should be easily affordable and accessible to all. In today’s society, a higher education of some sort, be it a four year degree or a trade school, is essential for any kind of upward mobility. With median household income on the decline and the job market still reeling from the financial shock of 2008, it is important for young Americans to be capable of educating themselves in an effort to breathe life back into the slowly growing economy.

The United States is one of a very few affluent nations that still considers education something that students should pay an exorbitant amount for, but within the terms of what is spent on the federal level every year, the cost for more government involvement would be relatively small. One estimate puts the cost of funding tuition for every two year and four year public university in the nation at a mere $70 billion dollars. That amount might sound steep, but keep in mind that it is the same amount the Pentagon spends every year in “unaccountable discretionary spending”. Those who want more federal spending for higher education argue that $70 billion is a low cost for education when considering the dire straights that public education institutions are in.

A perfect example is the plight of colleges in California. This coming election voters will be asked to consider proposition 30, which is aimed at increasing taxes to mitigate further budget cuts to the CSU system. Specifically, the bill would raise the California sales taxes by a marginal amount, as well as creating a higher tax for income earners who take in more than $250,000 per year. The bill would bring in an estimated $6.8 billion to the state. If the ballot measure fails, the CSU board of trustees already agreed to hike tuition costs a further 5%, adding on to a financial burden many students already struggle with.

To bolster the middle class and stimulate future economic growth, the United States needs to invest in human capital. Cost of tuition in the United States is an issue that needs to be addressed in a meaningful way, because students are fast approaching the time when the cost of tuition will outweigh the benefits of having a degree. At some point, college will simply not be a fiscally sound decision for families that cannot afford the costs out of pocket, and when education is not readily available to all, it is the nation that will suffer in the long run.