In a month or so, students will graduate from colleges and universities in states across the country. And, though they come from different institutions, I believe their outlook will be the same.
America’s students want their education to help them thrive, support a family, shape the world and control over their futures.
What they don’t want is mountains of leftover debt. Unfortunately, statistics show this debt is practically inevitable.
College costs have spiraled out of control, forcing students and families to take out multiple high-interest loans. Nearly 40 million Americans have taken out student loans and nearly 70 percent of bachelor’s degree-holders graduate with debt. In 2015, average student loan debt was more than $35,000.
Tip of the iceberg
When paired with national and local employment data, these statistics are even more alarming. Unemployment among millennials remains high, and those who do find jobs tend not to make enough money to pay off their loans. This places unnecessary hardship on our younger generations just entering the working world.
A growing American workforce is weighed down by debt with less cash to spend. Debt-stricken Americans tend to limit large purchases, such as real estate, vacations or cars, and don’t save enough for retirement. They are also more likely to switch jobs more frequently as they search for benefits and higher paychecks to cover debt.
Some workers never make enough to pay off their loans and interest in full. More than 160,000 Americans have a portion of their Social Security checks garnished to pay off federal student loans. Since 2002, the number of borrowers whose Social Security benefits were garnished increased by 400 percent. This is a significant blow to our seniors who rely on the program as their sole source of income.
College must be affordable
We must lessen the burden of student loan debt and make college more affordable. As ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, I have chosen increased access to higher education as a top priority.
Early last year, I introduced the Go to High School, Go to College Act. This bill allows students enrolled in early colleges to use Pell Grants to help pay for college while still in high school.
In 2015, I also introduced the Stop Social Security Garnishment for Student Debt Act. This legislation addresses issues of garnishment and protects Social Security benefits for seniors across the country.
Legislation is but one way to combat the growing student loan crisis. I believe all sectors, including Ohio’s corporations and local businesses, should join in.
Ohio’s communities need more programs and partnerships to help fill financial gaps. Apprenticeships, hands-on career and technical education opportunities, loan-repayment programs and additional scholarships could make vital differences in the lives of Ohio’s students.
We must work to give all students a chance to go to college, graduate and start their careers. This won’t just help Ohio’s students and families, but our entire nation. A college education is an investment in one’s future, but alleviating student loans is an investment in America’s future.
U.S. Rep. Marcia L Fudge represents the 11th Congressional District of Ohio Marcia is serving in her third consecutive term. She was elected in a special election in November 2008 and was re-elected in the general election that was held that same month. In 2012 she was unanimously elected by her colleagues to serve as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 113th Congress.