Student Debt: An Obstacle to a Better Life

Student debt is a rapidly growing issue facing American families today as young dreamers chase happiness and are stifled by crushing debt.


Imagine being accepted to your dream college, only to realize this dream cannot be made reality. This is the case for millions of people across the world, as potential students are faced with their biggest challenge: student debt.  


In the 1960’s, most students could afford college tuition by simply working a summer job[1]. However, today, as tuition prices skyrocket, this is no longer the case, forcing students to turn to loans to help them get a college degree. One in four Americans with a college degree have taken out loans to pay for school[2].  These loans prohibit future successes in life, forcing students to focus on paying their debts after school rather than enjoying their education and career.


Today, there is $1.48 trillion in total student debt in the United States, with 75% of students from public and private colleges graduating with debt. Since 2005, the average college tuition rate in the US has risen 33%, with the average cost of public university rising from $4,563 to $16,188 ( This drastic increase of tuition is likely a response to the massive cuts in public funding for higher education[3], prohibiting students from enjoying themselves and using their knowledge successfully, since they must worry about their debt.



The American student debt has tripled from $480 billion since 2006. This can be attributed to a number of factors – reduced state funding which has affected the ease of obtaining loans, competition among universities, and student pressure to attend the best university possible. With the student debt average near $1.5 trillion, it is much larger than auto loan debt ($1.1 trillion) and credit card debt ($977 billion) and it is still growing. According to The College Board, the average debt per graduate has increased from $12,300 in 2000 to about $16,900 in 2016[4]. There are two basic loans students can take out to fund their studies – federal loans and private loans[5]. Federal loans are often have lower interest rates than private. Interest rates are a major factor influencing the magnitude of student debt.


Increasing student debt causes serious detrimental effects on individuals and families. With the combination of the pressure to attend the best university and ease of taking loans, many individuals and their families take out student loans and don’t fully understand the hinderance it will cause their lives. Many take loans without understanding the high interest rates, meaning their debt will only increase as the years progress.


However, in many countries globally, student debt isn’t much better. Take Canada for example, the average debt for a Canadian graduate was about $22,000 in 2012 which takes several years to pay off completely[6]. The United Kingdom has similar issues. Their student finance system leaves some graduates with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, with some claiming that most student loans will never be repaid[7]. Countries like France, Germany, and Norway seem to have figured out how to provide a college education for their citizens without plunging them into massive debt. 


Around 3,000 Americans everyday are defaulting on student loans. These students feel they don’t have an option as 1 in 3 American jobs require a college degree to even get in the door for an interview. While still in school, some students fall behind on payments and are unable to complete their degrees. In some cases, they graduate and are unable to secure good paying jobs and end up with crushing debt. This makes it extremely difficult for these individuals to get cars or houses, they lose out on jobs and are unable to start a family. This imbalance in debt and success rates seriously harms the development of individuals and the United States as a whole, as the education that was supposed to provide “a better life” rather causes lifelong problems, stopping them from fulfilling their dreams.











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