When one thinks of the ideal American youth, the portrait of an educated, hopeful, and thriving citizen comes to mind. Unfortunately for the United States, such a person has become difficult to find, largely due to the widespread issue of student debt. Many young Americans leave high school with bright hopes for their academic future, of earning a degree, capturing a well-paying job, and then starting a family. However, for a plurality of college students, these dreams are delayed, or even prevented entirely by staggering amounts of student debt, often figures in the tens of thousands. Student debt is a crisis the government helped manufacture, which now needs the private sector, not politicians to solve the issue, first by ending or severely cutting federal student aid, and also by advocating for students to explore advanced education options besides expensive college degrees.
For solutions to a problem to be properly judged for their merit, one first must realize the extent of the issue in question. Student debt is a financial component in millions of Americans’ lives, and depending on the degree of debt accrued, can critically limit their quality of life for decades after graduation or dropout. Those with student debt have been found less likely to purchase a home, start a business, develop a sufficient retirement fund, or even start a family (Fay). This decrease in commercial participation among large swaths of young to middle-aged Americans has undeniably had a negative impact on the American economy as whole, which puts it on the radar of the federal government as an issue worth addressing. Even so, government action to decrease the strain of student loans and equalize a student’s ability to enter college regardless of financial standing has only worsened its effects on students. There are several courses of action that can be taken to reverse this trend, the best of which are presented below.
The first option the United States could consider to prevent further outset of crippling student debt is to simply stop subsidizing student loans and tuitions. A federal guarantee of assistance allows colleges and universities to comfortably increase their price tag, knowing full well that students can easily obtain tuition money with federal aid. Assurances of a college loan has an effect on the cost of education similar to the effect of printing large quantities of money on the economy: creating runaway inflation (Murphey). The cost of higher education has been steadily increasing at a faster rate than the salaries of many jobs that require a degree, resulting in more significant levels of student debt, as interest builds up over unpaid time. If colleges could not rely on the federal government as a surefire source of money, prices would begin to naturally decline to meet the demands of a majority of middle-class consumers.
Alongside decreasing the involvement of the federal government in procuring student loans, American society as a whole needs to reduce pressure on students to attend college. Trade schools and apprenticeships are valuable sources of higher education at much lower costs, with direct application in well paying blue collar jobs that are the foundation of the American economy. Students that attend trade schools in place of college often end up receiving similar levels of payment over the course of their life when factors such as the cost of their degree and their time in the workforce are factored in (Hamm). Student debt on a harmful scale is often incurred pursuing college majors with little application in the workplace outside of a few highly specialized careers. This issue is significantly more rare in trade school environments, and the skills taught there lead to reliable, respectable positions that are always in demand. Student debt would undoubtably decrease if more students pursued a higher education outside of colleges.
Despite the merits of privately funded solutions to reduce student debt, some argue that the size of the issue demands the intervention of the federal government. While the federal government does hold control of a multitude of resources that could be directed towards the student debt crisis, the majority of those funds are allocated elsewhere on a regular basis. The constitutional role of the federal government is quite narrow, mostly to provide for the common defense by way of a strong military and a just rule of law. The issue of education was left for the people to develop individually in their respective states. From the very founding of the country, the federal government was left out of the education system, obviously for a good reason. The effects of the federal government disregarding that fact is now felt by millions of Americans with student debt.
Knowing the serious nature of the crisis the United States faces in student debt, it is imperative that the proper steps to remedy the issue are taken swiftly and prudently. Viable options do exist to remedy present and prevent future growth of student debt in the nation. The federal government can rescind its previous decision to guarantee student loans, to slow the rapid growth in cost of college, and in doing so, reduce the levels of debt that can be collected. American society also needs to encourage students to consider forms of education outside of colleges, as these alternative options often provide cheaper, in depth education leading to rewarding careers with significantly less debt to a student’s name. The young of America shouldn’t have to jeopardize their future to pay for their education, the time to address student debt is now.
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Fay, Bill. Debt.org, 2019. www.debt.org/students/ Accessed 12 March 2019.
Hamm, Trent. “Trade School Might Be a Better Choice Than College. Here’s Why” Lifehacker, 16 December 2013. lifehacker.com/trade-school-might-be-a-better-choice-than-college-her-1484086007 Accessed 12 March 2019.
Murphey, Rachel. “5 Solutions We Desperately Need to Solve the Student Loan Crisis” IVN, 5 June 2017. ivn.us/2017/06/05/5-solutions-student-loan-crisis/ Accessed 12 March 2019.