Student Loan Crisis: Degrees of Debt

Every year the cost of paying for a college education goes up, and every year more and more Americans turn to student loans to pay for it. They mortgage their future to earn a degree on the hope of a lifetime of opportunity, but for many, their degrees end up a nice piece of parchment framed and hung on a wall as a symbol debt.

According to the Altoona Mirror, student loan volume increased 10 percent in 2012, accounting for $100 billion of the nation’s total student debt. That number is currently $1 trillion. And if one thinks that a college degree is a near-guarantee of a job, the statistics disagree.

The Mirror reports that 2 million people ages 20-24 nationwide and 106,000 in Pennsylvania with bachelor’s degrees who are unemployed. So what’s next for this student loan crisis?

In the short term, President Barack Obama signed a bill that maintains interest rates on new government Stafford Loans at 3.4 percent for one year instead of that rate doubling to 6.8 percent, but that’s only a stop gap.

The Baltimore Sun tells of a new report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education that calls for a change in how loans can be discharged, even allowing private student loans to be discharged through bankruptcy.


Sallie Mae, a giant in the student loan industry, has shown willingness to work on this issue, supporting allowing student to discharge loans in bankruptcy after five to seven years of good faith payments, but not all lenders are so kind.

They say the loans were taken out, and they demand repayment. But the loans taken out my most of the students in debt now were taken with the understanding that the economy was doing better, and that going to college meant they’d be able to find a job making more than minimum wage.

Though Congress has introduced legislation to allow for debt to be discharged in bankruptcy it is stalled. There seems to be little anyone can do by try to pay as best they can.

For now, graduates can look up at that B.A. or B.S. on the wall that their student loans paid for and wonder whether that degree of debt will be all they have to show for their hard work in school.