According to The New York Times, the average amount students owe for loans after graduation is $27,000.
This is three-and-a-half times more than college students paid 10 years ago, which points to something pretty damn grim.
Only 46 percent of undergrads had to take out loans in 1990. Now the number is at 70 percent.
Where did all that money go?
It disappeared into a swamp of financial aid cuts caused by greedy politicians.
Financial aid, grants, loans and work-study amounts have stayed the same, while the cost of tuition has skyrocketed.
Next year, public universities in New York are increasing their tuition by $1,400 and California is considering a $600 hike.
When states cut their budgets, public colleges feel the pain first.
But the missing state money has to come from someone — us.
Students are forced to pick up the government’s tab.
Over the past 50 years, a college degree has evolved from being a luxury to a necessity.
For some reason, America has created a job system that values a magical piece of paper over skill and experience.
A 21-year-old with a BA in Communications has a better chance of becoming a manager at Foot Locker than does a 35-year-old who worked 15 years in retail.
And chances are, the young graduate won’t earn enough to pay back those student loans.
But at least he’ll make more money with that magical piece of paper than without it.
The United States is unique.
It is one of the few industrialized countries that insists on making students pay for their own education.
While Canada, the European Union and even that bastion of democracy known as China offer free or highly subsidized tuition, the United States does not.
However, our government does see fit to spend an additional $200 billion to invade Iraq while it considers cutting federal spending for Pell Grants.
Draw your own conclusion.
At Temple, we’re lucky to attend a school that has (somewhat) affordable tuition.
However, our tuition jumped several hundred dollars from last year, and chances are it will jump several hundred dollars next year.
That’s more money we have to pay back, money we shouldn’t be paying in the first place.
It’s time to start demanding that Rendell, Specter, Santorum and the rest put money back into public universities.
If they don’t, fewer students will be able to afford to finish college, and even less will graduate without being knee-deep in loan debt.
Forget the war on terrorism, the real war is on our education.
Neal Ungerleider can be reached at N_terminal@yahoo.com.