Colleges, It’s Time To Admit You Have a Problem

My wife and I concur with, and can relate to, an article that was posted earlier today on Yahoo by Iris Maria Chávez, assistant field director for The Education Trust. We both have college/university debt (together it’s quite substantial), and we’re well aware of how unreachable higher education costs are becoming. One thing I learned from Iris’ article is that college tuition and fees have increased by 538% since the 1980’s. Combine the high costs with statistics about how difficult it is for college graduates to get a full-time job, and it’s an understatement to say that this situation in the US is a real mess. Here’s Iris’ story, along with her report on a growing campaign that is calling on colleges to reduce their soaring costs:

Growing up, I did exactly what was expected of me. I worked hard through high school and was the first in my family to graduate from college, thanks to the federal Pell Grant, an academic scholarship and work-study program.

Despite that, I still walked away with massive student loans. I don’t regret my choice because my education is the one thing no one can take away from me. But, like too many of my friends, I am now buried in student debt.

By the time I pay off my loans, I’ll be in my 50s. And like many of my peers, I’m thinking differently about major life decisions, like buying a home or car or having kids, because I have too much student debt to pay off first.

My story isn’t unique. More and more, skyrocketing college costs are forcing students to take on crippling debt in order to get the education they need. Since the early 1980s, tuition and fees have increased 538 percent—that’s almost twice as fast as healthcare costs. Over two-thirds of all college students currently borrow in order to finance their education. Even so, I was shocked to learn that Americans now owe more than $1 trillion on student loans.

Far too many hardworking students are being priced out of higher education. College should be about creating opportunity, not debt. The time to make college affordable is long past due.

Higher education is critical to ensuring a bright future. Not having at least a bachelor’s degree costs the average high school graduate about $1 million in lost lifetime earnings. But every year, more than 100,000 college-qualified, low-income students don’t enroll at all, citing cost as a major barrier.

Right now, the conversation about our nation’s student debt crisis is being dominated by policymakers, researchers and college administrators—which means that it’s more about dollars and numbers than real-world implications for real-life students and their families. It’s time for this conversation to be driven by the individuals who are most directly impacted: current and aspiring college students and recent graduates.

That’s why I got involved with I AM NOT A LOAN , a new national campaign to raise the voices of young people who are fed up with soaring college costs and student debt.

As a first step, I AM NOT A LOAN is calling on colleges across the country to pledge to reduce student debt. The leaders of many of these institutions already acknowledge that college costs are growing at an unsustainable rate, but have yet to take needed action to solve the problem.

To read the rest of Iris’ article, continue here.

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