Student debt: An emerging crisis

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hardtopeel/ Flickr

Ailey O’Toole
   Staff Writer

Graduates of the class of 2015 with student-loan debt will, on average, have to pay back a little more than $35,000, according to an analysis of government data by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher at Edvisors, a group of websites about planning and paying for college.

On top of that, the unemployment rate is currently 7.2 percent for college graduates, and the underemployment rate for the same group is 14.9 percent, according to a May 2015 report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The same report details that 10.5 percent of graduates are “idle,” meaning they are neither enrolled in school, nor employed.

These worryingly high rates are due to graduates entering an already weak labor market. And an often overlooked issue, when it comes to student debt, is the fact that graduates are accumulating so much debt that they are unable to find jobs that will earn them income to pay off their student loans. This is obviously due to the Great Recession that officially occurred from December 2007-June 2009, as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Not only are most graduates unable to find work, but the ones who do are finding jobs with substantially lower wages — the EPI report found that the real (inflation-adjusted) wages of college graduates is 2.5 percent lower than in 2000.

Before even enrolling in college, most students are already at a disadvantage because the cost of higher education has increased far more rapidly than median family income, leaving students with practically no choice other than to take out loans.

In this economy, there are no options to be able to attend college other than taking out loans, and it is practically impossible to pay back those loans because college graduates either cannot find jobs or cannot find jobs that pay well enough to accumulate enough income to pay back those loans.

A large part of college graduates not being able to find jobs is because they have little to no experience. During our parents’ generation, most people worked part-time (and sometimes full-time) jobs while attending school, helping to provide income that would eventually lend its hand in paying off debt.

However, these days college professors put way too much pressure on and assign a ridiculous amount of work today’s students, making it almost impossible for most students to have time for a job. This problem leaves them without experience that would help them find a job in the labor market.

And on top of that, young college-age workers are more likely to be laid off if their company falls on hard times, due to their like of seniority. It is like the whole world is revolting against us, and the universe wants us to accumulate a crazy amount of debt.

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Dafne Sanchez / The Carolinian

It is incredibly unfair that the price of attending college has risen so much that today’s students are forced to take out monstrous loans, and then it is ridiculously difficult for us to pay them back because we can’t find jobs, especially in a job market where employers are only hiring applicants with college degrees.

The world today expects us to be able to attend college, an experience with much more pressure and a great deal more work than it used to have, then work full-time or multiple part-time jobs in order to start building an income and establish job experience — all in order to find work after college in a weakened job market where there are fewer and fewer jobs available.

Honestly, I do not understand how older generations expect us to be successful in our careers after we graduate under this multitude of circumstances.

The only jobs I’ve been able to find since starting college are part-time jobs in food service, which does not exactly build the kind of experience my future employers are looking for, and I really don’t want to be stuck in food service for the rest of my life.

Some college students and graduates are lucky enough to have parents who can pay their living expenses, allowing them to save more money to pay off their student debt, or even lucky enough to have parents who are able to pay off their debt for them. But that is not the majority of cases in today’s economy.

College graduates are floundering in this economy, unable to find work in their degree field, or even unable to find work that will build the kind of experience needed to find that kind of job.

I don’t know how anyone expects us to be successful in a society that has set us up for failure.



Categories: Columns, Opinions, Uncategorized

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