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Student Loan Debt: A Multi-Generational Issue

Posted on August 21st, 2015  Posted by Kristen Yancey
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There is little serious questioning of the benefits that higher education reaps for American young adults: more income over a lifetime , a better quality of life, and hopefully greater civic engagement. Many students make sacrifices in order to be successful and dedicated students. Many have been awarded scholarships. Many have worked during school in order to help cover costs and, more often than not, have taken on student loans in order to finance their educations.

It is quite an investment. However, the investment is becoming sacrificial for multiple generations of families. Parents are becoming responsible for covering the bills of ever-rising college expenses. Many students absolutely cannot afford college costs without parental assistance and the entire process of college financial aid is arranged to force parental financial contributions. These are all historical and common approaches to fund college tuition, fees, food and board, etcetera.

The situation is however becoming less bearable since college costs have increased 1,120 percent over the past 30 years. Even grandparents are being forced to enter the big business of higher education. It seems natural that grandparents want to see their progeny succeed in life and also to help maintain our national competitiveness in a global economy. Funds to pay for college are being diverted from retirement investments and charged to credit cards to continue the financial support of students. We are also beginning to witness the children of parents who still have student loan debt enter college and take on debts of their own.

The pressures are real, the debt is mounting, and real solutions are needed in order to prevent the bursting of the next big debt bubble. Strategies to avoid negative attitudes about pursuing higher education are needed right now. High school students and their families are frightened by college costs and are considering deferring higher education-- this is an outcome that America as a whole cannot afford. Do we as a country think it is appropriate for costs to be so high that two, three or even four generations of a family are forced to help cover costs?

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