You may think that student debt doesn’t affect you, but it has deleterious implications for society that goes far beyond the students who owe money.
Value of Education
Higher education leads to social and economic benefits. Graduates are more likely to hold a job, maintain a stable family, live healthier and add value to society. Educated individuals commit less crime and utilize less public resources, such as needing welfare assistance. The benefits of education are passed on to the community. But they are prevented by barriers to education, including student debt.
Student Debt Hurts Society
Students, afraid of the burden of debt, are less likely to pursue higher education. When it comes to meeting the needs of society, our workforce is one of our greatest assets. The ability to meet the growing demands of society relies on training workers when and where they are needed most. However, debt is a huge obstacle. Research shows that it deters students from pursuing education causing harm in many areas of society including public health. Let’s use mental health as an example where there is a large unmet need for care.
Need for Mental Health Services
If you have ever needed to find a therapist, you probably know how difficult it is to find one, let alone get an appointment with one that accepts your insurance. Have you ever wondered why that is? Why is it so difficult to train more psychologists to meet the growing demand for services. While the answer to such questions are never straight forward, student debt plays a large role.
Even for the most qualified, motivated students willing to train as mental health providers, can’t afford it. At least not with expected cost and the anticipated starting salary. A typical psychology graduate might gradate with $250,000, and expect to pay nearly $1900 a month for the next 20 years. With a projected starting salary of of around $60,0000, this graduate might struggle to pay expenses and stay above the poverty line.
While all students who owe debt are facing disadvantages, in an article published in the Harvard Law review entitled “Student Debt is a Civil Rights Issue,” Dalie Jimenez and Jonathan Glater Jimenez discuss how the burdens of student debt disproportionately “harm Black and Latino students” and “put students of color further behind.” Debt relief might therefore, help remedy some of the systematic disadvantages they describe.
Fixing the problem
Reforming education and student debt through various programs, such as public education reform, financial reform or student loan forgiveness programs have been proposed as a means for addressing student debt. However, like many other things in the USA, the issue seems to be highly politicized, even though it has important ramifications for society as a whole.
Reducing student debt is important can add value to society. To the extent it can incentivize education, it can stimulate the economy, improve health, strengthen families, reduce crime and ensure we meet the growing needs of our society.
1. 250K includes undergraduate + graduate education costs.