College is more expensive—and important—than ever before. Some 44 million Americans collectively hold nearly $1.6 trillion in student debt. And these numbers are growing. This decade alone, college costs increased by 25% and student debt increased by 107%. Today, college graduates earn 80% more than those with just a high school diploma. That dichotomy is putting students in a difficult situation: Do they risk going into crippling debt at the beginning of their adult lives in the hope the investment turns into a career financial stability that goes with it?
Some 44 million Americans collectively hold over $1.6 trillion in student debt. And these numbers are growing.
At the same time, advancements in technology, especially automation, are making it harder to earn a living wage without some type of advanced degree. Today, college graduates earn 80% more than those with just a high school diploma, on average.
College is more expensive — and important — than ever before. And that dichotomy puts students in a difficult situation: do they risk going into debt they can’t pay back or miss out on the benefits of a college degree?
Experts have long labeled this dynamic a “crisis.” But then, another kind of crisis hit: the coronavirus pandemic. And then, an economic crisis followed.
In February, the United States officially entered an economic recession and between mid-march and June, over 42.6 million Americans filed for unemployment.
During the 2008 recession, many opted to go back to school and gain new skills. However, since then, the cost of a four-year college degree increased by 25% and student debt increased by 107% and many are less sure if college will be the solution to riding out a recession this time around.
CNBC Make It spoke with students, borrowers, historians and experts to learn how student debt became a crisis, how the pandemic will impact borrowers and who is to blame for putting students in an impossible position.
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How U.S. Student Debt Became A $1.6 Trillion Crisis