The United States, known for its reputation as a melting pot of heritage and a segregated community lacking unified identity, is now seeing the increased power of a strengthening culture: a culture of debt.
A little less than a month ago, the United States government reached a landmark of federal budgeting as the national debt climbed to an unprecedented $15 trillion. Things are looking grim for the average American: According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve, the average credit card debt per American household in 2015 is $5,700, while the total outstanding U.S. consumer debt is $3.4 trillion. These numbers are undoubtedly shocking, yet even worse when analyzed more closely.
By far, the most affected of the population appears to be students. According to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), in 2016 the total U.S. student loan debt was $1.26 trillion spread out among 44.2 million Americans. This means that the average class of 2016 graduate now carries $37,172 in student debt, paying a monthly average of $351 for nearly 10 years, a hefty price that severely limits familial, financial, and recreational opportunities.
“It's an incredible burden,” explained my 25 year old brother, a graduate from the University of Georgia and a recipient of the Hope scholarship, “You spend the first 18 years of your life hearing people tell you that college is the most important thing you’ll ever do, that a higher education is priceless. Then you spend the next 18 years paying that price, saying goodbye to traveling or flying home to spend Christmas with family. No, I wouldn’t say college is worth the debt.”
Why are students around the country coming to similar conclusions? Bloomberg reports that college tuition and fees have increased 1,120% since 1978. A push for High School students to continue on in higher education has forced the younger generation to take on thousands in debt, carrying the literal cost of their dreams on their shoulders.
So what can be done? If you want to ease the burden of America’s future leaders, when the time comes around again, vote for increased federal spending on higher education to make tuition prices more bearable, vote for an increased minimum wage within your state so students can realistically pay their way through school, or donate directly to a scholarship program.