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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Opinion

Go to college, collect student loan debt


Despite UH’s efforts to reduce debt, students still struggle. | Hendrick Rosemond/The Daily Cougar

The graduating class of 2015 is set to be the most indebted in history as student loan debt is roughly $1.2 trillion. | File Photo/The Cougar

Students may be overjoyed to have graduated this year, but most people aren’t talking about the massive amounts of money graduates will have to pay back for what is essentially a piece of paper that says ‘life achievement.’

Total student loan debt in the U.S. currently stands at $1.2 trillion. Seventy percent of college students graduate with debt, and the graduating class of 2015 is now officially the most indebted in history.

It also doesn’t help that college tuition has tripled in the past three decades. $35,000 is the average debt amount, but some students are paying off over $100,000 if they go to graduate school.

And people make jokes about college grads living in their parent’s basements.

This is crazy. Only a few senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, seem to give a damn.

As the 2016 presidential election race begins, it’s surprising that more candidates are not taking up the issue, even to at least attempt to get the youth vote.

“This coming presidential election I am voting for whoever makes student loan debt their main issue,” said Meredith Richey, who recently obtained her master’s degree from Baylor University and is still paying of her student loan debt.

But politicians may refuse to discuss the issue simply because the solution might include the ultimate swear word: taxes.

Sanders’ proposal for free public colleges includes taxing Wall Street transactions.

If the American taxpayers can bailout Wall Street, surely these taxes should be seen as simply reinvesting in the youth, America’s future.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also been fighting to pass a student loan refinancing bill that tackles high interest rates, but she and her Democratic colleagues have been blocked by Republicans every time.

Anyone who says that the government can’t afford student debt relief needs to be reminded that the F-35 fighter plane, which will cost the government $1.5 trillion over 55 years, exists. Selling one of those could theoretically take care of this $1.2 trillion student debt bubble.

“Because I pay so much, my cost of living goes way down,” said Richey. “I pay less for rent than I do my monthly loan payments.

“It’s made me so broke that I can’t do anything. I can do basic stuff, but you shouldn’t have to live like that.”

If parents aren’t helping their children with these payments, being slammed with this amount of debt right out of college is an intense ordeal.

If someone is paying $600 a month and they’re living paycheck to paycheck, that makes things complicated.

This means occasionally not being able to afford groceries or maintain a healthy diet in general. If any sudden expenses arise such as car trouble or a medical emergency, there might be months where a person has to go hungry.

Richey works three jobs, one being as an adjunct professor at Houston Baptist University. That seems like a lot of work for a qualified individual to do simply to survive.

“(Everyone) is in debt, but no one wants to talk about it because it’s embarrassing,” she said.

This state of embarrassment and struggle is not unique. Most adults have debt in their lives.

But it shouldn’t have to be the first thing to worry about when graduating from college. It almost devalues graduates’ status as a human being.

Loan distributors should just send a letter to graduates saying ‘congratulations on four years of work, stress and no sleep, now get ready to pay us monthly payments for the rest of your life!’

This will continue to get worse unless something is done about it. More and more people are going to college, so it’s only a matter of time before this problem becomes an epidemic.

Education, and the betterment of this country through individual success, shouldn’t be the source of a national crisis.

CORRECTION: The original post said that the F-35 fighter plane cost $1.5 trillion. This has been clarified to say that the F-35 fighter plane will cost $1.5 trillion over 55 years.

Opinion columnist Anthony Torres is a political science junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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