Student Debt in the United States: A Growing Crisis

March 30, 2020
Perri Schwartz

Sandy Springs, Georgia, United States

Class of 2021

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College is one of the most popular but most expensive paths to an excellent job in the United States. With that does come to some challenges. Most students have to find a way to manage themselves financially, and the way they do that is by using student loans, which are a form of financial aid used to help students access higher education. There are three kinds of student loans: federal loans, private loans, and refinance loans, and they are available to you once you leave school. The government provides federal loans. While banks, credit unions, and states make private loans and refinance loans, federal loans are the most flexible overall. 

With college tuition costs rapidly rising, student loan debt has become the only option to pay for college for many students.

In total, there are 44 million Americans who have outstanding student loan debt, and it has become one of the most significant consumer debt categories. By the end of 2009, Americans held roughly $772 billion in student loan debt. That number now tops more than $1.5 trillion. That's an increase of approximately 107% and is also roughly 7.5% of the GDP or Gross Domestic Product. Monthly student payment (among those not in deferment) usually shells out between $200 and $300 on average. 

Across the United States, it's estimated that the average borrower, or someone who shares a student loan, has more than $37,000 in debt, while more than 2 million student loan borrowers owe $100,000 or more— and these numbers continue to rise. 

There are an estimated 242 million adults over the age of 18 in the United States, and that means that approximately 18% of American adults are paying off student loans. 

The student debt crisis is growing, and many borrowers are struggling to pay for day to day necessities such as rent, groceries, or car payments. For others, student debt stands in the way of buying a home, starting a business, or pursuing a new career opportunity. 

According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 70% of US adults considered college education to be "very important," 23% felt it was "fairly important," and 6% said it was "not too important." Last year, those numbers fell significantly to 51%, 36%, and 13%. 

Overall, the most significant division can be seen among young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. In 2013, 74% of Americans in this age group said college was "very important," but by 2019, just 41% said the same thing, according to Stephanie Marken, who is the executive director of education research at Gallup. 

Among the class of 2019, 69% of college students had student loan debt and graduated with an average debt of $29,000, a 2% increase from the previous year. That includes both private and federal debt. As of 2018, 66% of college graduates from public colleges an average debt of $25,000, 75% of college graduates from private, nonprofit colleges had an average debt of $32,000, and 88% of graduates from for-profit colleges had an average debt of $39,000. Students borrowed an estimated $259 billion for the 2018-2019 academic year, and 5% of that amount was private loans. Private student loan debt hit an estimated $13.1 billion in the 2018-2019 academic year. 

More than half of undergraduates don't take full advantage of federal students, borrowing private loans before they've exhausted their available federal loans. 

As you can see, the student debt crisis can affect anyone. It's ok to be scared, and I believe that student debt is something that should be prevented. Being able to manage yourself financially comes with a lot of stress, especially if you're living on your own for the first time. 

Perri Schwartz is a BBG from B’yachad BBG #2495 in Greater Atlanta Region #55. She has photographic memory, loves to fight for what she belives in, and hopes to be a professional journalist.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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