Student Loan Quandry

Anna Alaburda, top-tier graduate of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is taking her alma mater to court. She hasn’t been able to find a job as a lawyer since she graduated in 2008, she claims, and she has upwards (and growing) of 150k in student loans. She is suing TJSL for “inflat[ing] the employment data for its graduates as a way to lure students to enroll,” a first of that nature in student-debt related lawsuits in the U.S.

With new stories like Alaburda’s appearing ever more frequently, we step back and ask, what is the current state of student loans and college debt in this country? And what does that mean looking ahead?

As reported by the department of education, interest rates for federal student loans start around 4.3% and can climb as high at 8-9% for graduate students. Many states, including Minnesota, are taking a look at state budgets to consider channeling more money into higher education.

According to the President of Washington College, tuition hikes as a result of increase loan availability means that “[The U.S. has] increased the costs of college. We have not increased access.” One North Carolina study published in the Washington Post found, “the average sticker price of college now eats up more than 40 percent of a family’s paycheck. In 2001, it accounted for less than a quarter.”

Individuals and families aren’t the only ones with big student debt problems. Nevada Public Radio finds that “The accumulated total of student loan debt in the United States has hit $1.3 trillion...the greatest amount of student debt in U.S. history.” Interestingly, students apparently in the most danger of default or unaffordable payments are not those with debt in the 100ks. Rather, it is those whose debt figures in the tens of thousands, often because those students received education for lower-paying jobs or dropped out of school and failed to graduate.

The Examiner also takes a look at the skyrocket figure of U.S. student loan debt, asserting, “What’s even more shocking is that this number makes up over 37 percent of the government’s total assets of $3.2 trillion...The number rose about 10 percent from 2014 and is expected to follow trend in 2016.

“Around 7 out of 10 of graduates from the class of 2015 left school with a diploma in one hand and a bag of educational debt in the other—with the average holding over $35,000. This made the class of 2015 the most indebted class in U.S. history.”

Many presidential candidates have proposed radical changes to the university system. But, whether the Republicans or Democrats take the White House in 2017, change appears to be on the horizon for what most consider to be an unsustainable student loan industry. A large number of colleges have such broad admission standards that nearly any high school graduate can gain admission, take on debt, and at a growing rate of 12%, drop out. This has led many to suggest that federal student loans, and college acceptance letters, should be reserved for those with higher GPAs and greater overall likelihood to stay in college.

One negative consequence of this debt crisis is a new kind of targeted scam which advertises, but does not provide, student loan relief or guidance, and then collects fees from unknowing clients. The Chicago Tribune reports that this type of scam broke into the top 10 scams in the state of Michigan for 2015 for the first time ever.

Federal efforts such as the William D. Ford Direct Loan program are on the rise to help students take advantage of delayed and reduced payments. Private organizations like CommonBond are also springing up as alternatives to borrowing federal money and to offer refinancing services for both students and parents.

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