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Student loan debt is a growing problem in the United States. High debt is forcing college graduates to delay pursuing families, avoid spending, and take on lower paying jobs. These issues could prove disastrous if the trend continues.
While taking out loans is generally regarded as risky for college students, there is often no other option to pursue higher education. Ironically, the money borrowed to obtain a good education and later, a good job can lead to graduates having little room to pursue their dreams, forced to work immediately to pay off debts. This setback delays a student’s career as well as other aspects of life. Marriage is costly, home ownership is costly and a child is costly and faced with heavy workloads going to pay for debt, the traditional family life can seem unreachable. This mentality leads to Americans not starting their families and settling down until they are much older than in the past in order to focus on their career and monetary issues. Cost of tuition is also rising consistently, making college attendees look to loans more frequently and in higher amounts.
The worst of these loan issues affect students of some of our most critical professions, such as doctors and lawyers, who are required to have lengthy schoolings. Many of these students are forced to turn to massive loans with such high education costs. However, unlike members of other professions who can go straight to working, medical students and law students are faced with increasingly difficult course loads for a longer period of time. While compensated for internships, the pay is often not high enough to sufficiently start chipping away at debt. While a teacher may be able to pay off his or her loans over the course of five years or so, a doctor may be looking at fifteen.
This debt has a long-lasting effect on life in general. Even with a high paying job, debt can still be a problem when coupled with the expenses of owning a house, a car and day-to day-necessities. As well, the average cost of raising a child to age 18 costs $226,920, according to a CNN study. That does not include the cost of saving for a college education and is focused on basic needs. With this in mind, adding another expense seems unrealistic, especially one which will suffer if put second to another expense, leading to educated professionals waiting until they find more stability to start a family. By the time this point is reached, it is often only possible for them to have one, maybe two kids, if any at all.
Wide ranging effects on society could be caused by these issues. With these trends in play, the U.S. could join Germany and Japan in having little or no population growth, resulting in a much smaller work force. This diminished work force will have to deal with the economic issues left behind by the previous generation but with even more of a disadvantage due to a high number of dependents to workers. Debt also limits spending, discourages business ventures and unpaid loans cause banks to lose liquidity and potentially have to charge higher interest rates on other loans to compensate for lost profits, all of which hurts the nation’s economic health.
A way to ease the burden is to begin reform from the bottom up, focusing on students themselves. Educating high school students on the job market in its present and future state will get them to think more on the likeliness of netting the career they envision. Everyone knows the recession has hit the market hard, but the specifics of what fields have been hit hardest are important to know. Students should be informed of debt problems and how repayment works, which will encourage them to borrow money smartly and look more toward scholarships. They should not be discouraged from their dreams, but they should know odds factually and be advised on what minors and courses can lead to a well-paying job that could support them if they don’t land a dream job immediately.
Though every field of study is important, some hold more job opportunities than others. A student interested in becoming a theatre major should be encouraged, but also having an alternate career plan involving a minor in business management or programming would make life easier. For medical and law students, employers and students should be advised on ways to alleviate debt problems, perhaps with higher compensation for beginning employees in order to pay for debt. Interns with debt could have a higher starting pay coupled with a slight lowering of salaries later in career.
With rising debt looming, the future can appear bleak; however, more people are attending college than ever before, which is a positive matter. This period of time may prove to be transitional – improvements dealing with and education on the financing of a college education could lead to fewer inhibitions for graduates. With lower expenses but the same quality education, Americans could see dramatic improvement in the workforce and in society.