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Tackling the High Cost of Student Loan Debt

Feb 04, 2019

By Matt Konrad

There’s no way around it: Americans are drowning in student loan debt. Collectively, we owe $1.5 trillion, and continually rising college costs mean that number isn’t likely to drop much in the next few decades. The average student borrower takes out around $26,000 in loans over the course of a bachelor’s degree—debt that is impossible to discharge in bankruptcy, difficult to have forgiven and increasingly unlikely to be fully repaid on schedule.

Not every student takes on...

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While the United States’ economy has shown encouraging signs of recovery in recent years, one issue continues to get worse: the student loan debt crisis.

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For the last decade, the ongoing crisis in student loan debt has loomed over every aspect of higher education, from choice and enrollment to post-graduate payback. At times, the trillion-dollar mountain of debt has seemed insurmountable. But today, with increased commitment from both the public and private sectors, new strategies are emerging to take on the crisis -- strategies like corporate student loan repayment and the Student Debt Challenge.

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Sometime in 2012, America’s total student loan debt passed the $1 trillion mark. At the time, analysts at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau were shocked -- the totals surpassed previous estimates, and the debt burden was suddenly and ominously compared to the “too big to fail” financial markets of 2008.

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For recent college graduates, the knowledge, skills and relationships formed during their school years will equip them for years to come. Yet, for millions of these graduates, their higher education journey will also come with another post-graduation reality: student loan debt. And for some, that debt exponentially increases into a full-fledged crisis.

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Wondering how America pays for college? Last week, Sallie Mae released its annual report, How America Pays for College 2014, which breaks down how students 18-24 and their families are navigating through tuition and fees at colleges and universities. The results are a telling picture of where the nation stands financially when it comes to postsecondary education. Here are just a few of the key points from that report -- and why they’re important.

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Alaskans have an average of $28,782 of it. Residents of Delaware have $33,649. Wherever you may live, student loan debt is a problem that hits home. Seven in 10 college seniors owe a national average of $29,400 in student loans. Combine that with 37 million student borrowers, and you have a $1 trillion (and growing) crisis. That’s right: Student loans are the biggest form of consumer debt outside of mortgages.

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A trillion dollars. That’s a massive number. It’s larger than the gross domestic product of 175 countries.  No company in the Fortune 500 produces even half that much in annual revenue. The franchises in all four major American pro sports are worth barely 10 percent of a trillion dollars, combined. And it’s also how much America’s college graduates owe on their student loans.

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