Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Student Debt Continues to Grow

This graphic from Mother Jones shows very starkly how student debt quadrupled in the years between 2000 and 2011. (There are more good graphs available at the link.)

Just check out these stats: Unemployment among college grads is twice what it was in 2007. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for 16-24-year-olds is twice the national average; grads under 25 are twice as likely to lack a job than their older peers. The New York Times reports that just half of students who graduated in 2010 had a job in the spring of 2011, and even those who did get jobs were often way overqualified.

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan gave a speech this week on the topic of student debt. From the NY Times:

At a time when the Occupy movement has helped push college costs into the national spotlight, the Education Department characterized the speech, delivered in Las Vegas, as the start of a “national conversation about the rising cost of college.” The department took the opportunity to call attention to steps the Obama administration has taken to reduce the net price that students and families pay for higher education and make it easier to pay back student loans.

The Occupy movement really has changed our national dialogue in just a few short months. Remember when all we heard about was the deficit?

In his speech to financial-aid administrators, Mr. Duncan also discussed the department’s work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to create a financial aid shopping sheet, or model disclosure form, to help students understand and compare the type and amount of aid in different aid packages, and the department’s new watch lists, required by Congress, showing which colleges have the highest and lowest tuition and net prices.

This makes a lot of sense, and it would be very helpful to families from the 99%.

He cited, for example, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, which is offering a 50 percent discount on tuition and fees for freshmen who enroll in the school of education; the University of Oregon’s PathwayOregon, guaranteeing a tuition-free education to qualified Oregonians from low-income families; and, in West Virginia, the University of Charleston’s plan to cut tuition 22 percent for next year’s incoming freshmen and transfer students.

It's good to see even a few colleges taking this kind of action. Now that the spotlight is on student debt and unemployment, let's hope that other schools take similar action so that a college education is affordable for everyone who wants one.

cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org

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