Society

The Student Loan Debt Crisis Isn't Getting Any Better

| by Nik Bonopartis
A crowd of graduates at Pittsburgh University.A crowd of graduates at Pittsburgh University.

Recent college graduates are finding themselves deep in debt, with 2015 graduates owing an average of $30,100 each.

That's up four percent from 2014, according to The Institute for College Access and Success, which compiled the report on the ongoing student debt crisis. It's the 11th year in a row the institute has issued a report on student debt.

About seven in 10 students who graduated in 2015 had student loan debts.

“Student debt is still rising, and the typical college graduate now leaves school with over $30,000 in loans,” said Lauren Asher, the institute's president. “We need to make college more affordable and debt less burdensome for students and families.”

In fact, the situation is probably worse than the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) report indicates. The report's authors say the figures don't include debt accrued by students at for-profit colleges, who often have higher debt loads on graduation and struggle to find jobs to pay off those debts.

That's one reason federal and state governments have been going after for-profit educational institutions over the past two years, with the nation's largest for-profit university, ITT Tech, shutting down in September. The school's shutdown left 40,000 students in limbo, according to the New York Post, and 8,000 people without jobs.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg. ITT's demise left its students with some $500 million in loans without degrees to show for it, the Post noted. Like other for-profit colleges, some 80 percent of ITT's revenue came directly from government-backed loans.

Nationally, students attending college in New Hampshire graduated with the most debt, owing $36,101 on average, TICAS said. Students attending schools in Connecticut and Pennsylvania weren't far behind, with $34,773 and $34,798 average debts respectively.

Compounding the problem is that about one-fifth of student loan debts for the class of 2015 come from non-federal sources, according to TICAS. The federal government is more accommodating with payback options and caps repayment installments based on income.

But state and privately-issued loans aren't as forgiving, and can quickly drive students further into debt as interest piles up.

"In addition to how much they owe, it matters what kinds of loans students have” said Debbie Cochrane, report coauthor and TICAS vice president. “Compared to federal loans, private loans – whether from banks, states, or schools – can be much harder to repay, especially if the borrower hits hard times.”

Brittney Fuston, a 22-year-old graduate of the medical assisting program at Baltimore’s All-State Career College, told MarketWatch she's been deferring $9,500 in student loans since she graduated in 2014, and is currently unemployed with no way to pay back her loans.

“I kind of feel like we’re being swindled just to get an opportunity in this world,” she said.

Sources: MarketWatch (2), The Institute for College Access and Success (2) / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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