As young people take steps towards their future and eagerly prepare to enter the world of higher education, they are now faced with the seemingly inevitable notion of graduating with at least some student loan debt. While students intend to land a job after graduation to pay off their loans, that task has become more and more challenging in recent years, as the country seems to sink deeper into a student loan crisis.
Some students today graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, facing decades of high payments and interest rates. Let’s take a look at the causes and effects of the student loan crisis, and what you can do to avoid drowning in student loan debt.
What’s causing the student loan crisis?
The biggest culprit in the student loan crisis is the dramatic increase in the price of higher education, which has grown at a disproportional rate than the rate of American wages. Gone are the days of taking a part-time job to pay tuition. Additionally, with more students attending college, the job market is becoming more and more competitive, meaning if young people aspire to a prosperous future, a college degree is a must. But with the astronomical costs of attending, today’s students are forced to borrow more money than ever.
Often, student loans mark the first time these young people are borrowing money. Many students, and often their parents as well, are not properly educated on loans. Student loan companies in particular are privy to this and often take advantage of young borrowers, hiking up interest rates and making loans even more difficult to pay back post-graduation. Students end up racking up larger sums of debt, often carrying it until much later into adulthood than past generations have.
What are the effects of the student loan crisis?
Both the job market and the overall economy are taking a hit as a result of the student loan crisis. With large amounts of student loan debt upon graduation, individuals are being forced to take jobs outside of their field of study simply because they need income to make their loan payments.
Another major result of the student loan crisis is the decline in home ownership among young people. Individuals under 30 are less likely to buy a house because they are still bogged down by student loan debt, making them either unable or unwilling to take on a mortgage. This is causing issues in the housing market, which is still recovering from the recession.
In general, the student loan crisis has had a negative impact on overall consumer spending, with young people making up a crucial portion of the market. Those burdened with large amounts of student debt have significantly less disposable income, which hurts the economy as a whole.
How to avoid being part of the student loan crisis
First, explore other financial aid options to try to minimize borrowing. File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible to ensure you are maximizing your financial aid package – the FAFSA is considered on a first-come, first-served basis at some institutions. In addition, look into scholarships and grants. Grants may be available at the federal and state level, as well as from the institution. Hundreds of scholarships are also offered to eligible students at the state, federal and institutional level as well as from nonprofit and community organizations.
If you still must borrow, there are ways to try to prevent drowning in debt. First, try to avoid borrowing from private lenders. Federal student loans often offer fixed interest rates and income-based repayment options that private companies do not offer. If you must take out a private loan, search for the most competitive interest rates and best available repayment options.
The most important step is to be educated. Both parents and students getting ready to borrow money can benefit from researching loan types, interest rates and repayment plans to avoid being taken advantage of by lenders who prey on young people.
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