The total national student loan debt is nearing $1 trillion, according to PIRG.
Last year, the national student loan debt exceeded the national credit card debt for the first time in history. Now, student loan debt is nearing $1 trillion, according to the United States Public Interest Research Group.
According to an AP-Viacom poll, money troubles, not academics, was the No. 1 reason cited by most for bypassing college or dropping out.
“I think it’s pretty telling of some of the stuff we’re seeing across the country,” said Richard Williams, a higher education advocate and policy expert for PIRG.
“Just in the past 10 years, there was a report by Congress in the early decade [that] looked at how many students each year don’t go to school because of financial problems and looks at financial barriers in general,” Williams added. “What that report found was that every year, 400,000 qualified high school graduates choose not to go to college or even apply because of the debt that they know they’ll have to pay down.”
Ten years ago, approximately one-third of college graduates needed to borrow in order to graduate, and the average amount that was borrowed was $12,000, Williams said.
Williams added that based on the most recent set of data, currently two-thirds of college students need to borrow money in order to graduate, and the average loan debt is pushing $20,000.
“What we’re seeing is people who are not going to Harvard or not going to Princeton, folks who are just staying in state and going to modest in-state schools, are now taking on extreme levels of debt,” Williams said.
“We know that each year, 400,000 students that are qualified high school graduates are not going to college, but also [consider] how difficult it is to access financial aid, filling out [the Free Application for Federal Student Aid] forms, it’s frustrating for college students and their families,” Williams added. “It’s a pretty common thing for families to have problems with it, so imagine if you are a first generation college student or a first generation English speaker, those things get more and more challenging.”
Christopher Marc Wolfgang, the director for the advising center in the College of Liberal Arts, said in an email that “both academic and financial considerations are important factors in the decisions made by students and their families.”
Williams said the pressure from student loan debt and the expenses related to a college education force many students, once in school, to work more.
Williams said working more than 15 hours a week while in school takes away from studying, hurts students’ grades and decreases their chances to graduate.
According to an Associated Press article, 84 percent of college students need more than one source of money to keep up.
“We’re seeing more students, more full-time students, needing to work full-time, and that keeps a lot of students from becoming [or staying] full-time students,” Williams said.
Valerie Rubinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.