Across the East River, a 35-year-old Hunter College graduate student named Monica Johnson woke up with debt on her mind. She's always thinking about student debt: the $88,000 she racked up between college and graduate school, and the legions of Americans whose unpaid student loans now total close to $1-trillion, twice the amount owed five years ago, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Student-loan debt now exceeds credit-card debt in the United States, with full-time undergraduates borrowing an average of $4,963 in 2010, according to the College Board.
Most students do not pay the full cost of college, but more and more are taking out loans. And if borrowers face severe financial problems, their student loans cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy, unlike most other forms of debt, such as gambling debts, that can. Some observers predict that student debt will be the country's next big financial crisis.
Young people like Ms. Johnson, who are starting adult life deeper in debt than students a decade ago, see themselves as part of a new generation of serfdom. Even as their debt grows, she and others say that student activism around the issue is weaker in the United States than in other countries due to a psychology of shame and guilt.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
CHE: A Graduate Student With $88,000 in Student Loans Speaks Out About College Debt
The Chronicle of Higher Education highlights a growing problem in the United States: the burgeoning student loan debt ($1 trillion), which is now higher than credit-card and auto loan debt. I share this woman's pain as more young adults, the best years of our lives, rack up more than $50,000 in student loan debt. How does this generation plan for future children's educational attainment and retirements? Is America becoming a serfdom state where future generations have less financial autonomy and political power?