It's graduation day at a big public university. All the graduates are swept up in emotion and grinning ear-to-ear or tearing up as they hug their friends. Relatives of the graduates crowd the stands, holding up their phones and trying to catch a glimpse of their loved one. The graduates are decked out in the standard regalia and boasting their school colors. Many have decorated the tops of their graduation caps with fun designs and sayings. It feels like a happy, exciting day. But if you look closely, you'll notice that so many of the caps are covered in memes about the impending doom of student loans. Or calculations showing how much debt working towards this degree put the student in. And that's when you start to notice the feeling of fear, uncertainty, and pessimism in the room.
The cost of higher education is, well, high. But for many of us, we were told all our lives that going to college would earn you a great job. That college was necessary to be successful in life. But going to college can also put you tens of thousands of dollars into debt. Not really a great way to start off adulthood. My bachelor's degree put me back about $40k. And that $40k is more than my starting salary in my career field… that requires a college education to do.
It may be surprising, but the memes about jobs requiring a bachelor's degree to earn $10 an hour are true too. I can't tell you how many job postings I've seen like that (and note also I just saw a sign at Target that they were hiring with a starting salary of $13 per hour). And for millennials and Generation Z who are trying to start their lives, it's very difficult to be held back by a monthly student loan payment when your salary does not match up at all. Some lenders do allow income-driven repayment plans, but that just means it's going to take longer to be out of debt.
People complain that the younger generations aren't buying cars and houses. But how can anyone be expected to stimulate the economy when they're just struggling to stay afloat? There are some loan forgiveness programs in place, but all of these plans have restrictions. Even the ones for teachers mean the teacher has to meet specific requirements to be able to qualify. Otherwise, you're out of luck. No wonder so many teachers are leaving the field.
The fight for student loan forgiveness isn't about laziness. It's about building a stronger economy and future. When you have thousands of people stuck in a cycle of debt, other markets are soon going to be affected (as we have already seen start to happen). I believe there should still be rules in place for those applying for forgiveness, but the current rules should be reevaluated. A stronger country is not going to be built on a foundation that is falling into a sinkhole of student loan debt.