In our recent Student Voices Scholarship program, we posed the concept of student loans and whether their burden has become an institutional crisis. One entrant, Steven Rios, noted that there is a cycle, and while the costs of tuition are annually rising, so is the value of higher education. However, employers will continue to constantly value the education, and therefore there is no end in sight for prices to drop, as the value will continue to be met with high demand from the market. Rios notes that scholarships continue to be an underutilized avenue for funding, and that universities need to work more directly with students to help understand their financing options.
Appalachia Sanford opens a Student Voices essay with a Nelson Mandela quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” However, the costs of attending college have dramatically increased in the last decade, making it pricey for individuals to obtain higher education. So with that in mind, the larger question becomes, “Is college a right, or a privilege?” It’s a complex issue with many angles to analyze and address.
With student loans becoming a larger economic crisis in the United States than ever before, we sought viewpoints from current students as to what the top concerns were, and what options we had as a country to begin fixing the issue. Dina Masri sent in an article posing the idea that graduates are now spending years trying to pay off loans rather than starting up new companies and better utilizing their innovative and creative sides on new endeavors to move the country forward. If corporations are excited to recruit from certain top universities, shouldn’t they play a stronger part in their partnership with the institutions from an earlier stage? Perhaps developing programs and paths that better guide students into “hireable” degrees would be a benefit to the majority of students, as well.
We recently posted a new Student Voices Scholarship topic, addressing whether student loans were an economic crisis, what could be done to resolve them, and whether bankruptcy should be an option on the table to forgive student loan debt. One runner up, Jasper Gilley, presented a well-articulated essay that enumerated several of the primary issues and potential resolutions. Students should begin by shifting their mentality; currently, there is a prevailing stigma that students should attend the most selective university they are admitted to, regardless of its financial feasibility, and regardless of what they intend to study and whether it is the best fit for that particular industry.
Weston Lewis addressed our Scholarship Topic, “Are Student Loans a Crisis for the Economy?” with some research from a popular website, Student Loan Hero, to support his personal outlook on the question. Economic growth is slowed because it stifles spending, prevents individuals from purchasing new homes and holds back opportunities to start new small businesses. However, Weston does not believe students should be able to erase debt through bankruptcy, due to the complications and difficulty of the process that go far beyond a short term resolution.
Student loan debt of $1.4 trillion today is triple that of student loan debt just 11 years ago in 2006, notes Gregory Etienne, a runner up in our Ark Law Student Voices Scholarship Program. That debt is carrying over into personal lifestyles and financial stability; students working hard to achieve a higher education are being denied for life basics, like housing, due to not having strong credit because of their debt levels from college. Gregory personalizes his story with an honest account of how and why several individuals also suffer from student debt without the added benefit of finishing school immediately to begin paying it back. Sometimes unfortunately life circumstances, like his, dictate a different path, and yet there is no relief from any debt already incurred.
Thomas Hayes addressed our recent topic of student loan debt and whether students should be allowed to declare bankruptcy with a top essay submission. His outlook is that yes, bankruptcy should be allowed for student loan debt to provide a form of relief that is otherwise stifling not just the individual, but the economy as a whole. However, Hayes takes it one step further to recognize that this cures only the symptoms and not the cause; ultimately, further actions have to be taken to prevent continued tuition hikes and a vicious cycle that brings the country back to a time when only the most wealthy could afford college.
“Nobody bothered to look at the Return on Investment,” states Jessica Kong, regarding the topic of student loan debt and its trajectory of tripling in the past decade. Jessica tells a story to the reader- one which is all too familiar. Prior generations touted the benefits of education, college, working hard and retiring well. Unfortunately, the economy has made some large changes in that time, including dramatically increased college tuition rates in conjunction with radically increased rates of underemployment. Society needs to work together to change the stigma and adjust the concept that individualization is key. For some, their passion does not require a high cost degree, and there should be no stigma in taking the direct path to get there.
“In combination with depressed wages and starting salaries, the modern college graduate faces financial obstacles that hinder their ability to spend money freely,” states Shawn Wilkinson, a recognized entrant in our Student Voices Scholarship Program. College tuition costs have risen due to education budgets being cut at the local and federal government levels, resulting in more student debt than in any previous generation. Perhaps universities using infrastructure grants to improve facilities, rather than increasing costs to students, might be a win-win situation to explore.
Emma Cooper, a runner up in our Ark Law Student Voices Scholarship program, presented an essay in which she recognizes that the benefits of higher education are undeniable but yet come with a high expense- often crippling in nature. She cites the average Bachelor’s Degree indebtedness in the United States was $31,100 in 2015 and yet the high unemployment rate in the parallel time frame is preventing graduates from finding quality work that enables them to immediately begin paying off their student loan debts. Some of her concepts for improvement are recognized in successful federal initiatives around the globe, including Nordic countries and the United Kingdom.
One of the top essays in our Ark Law Student Voices Scholarship Program was sent in by Napala Pratini, who recognizes that the implications of the student loan debt crisis bifurcate into the quantitative issues and the qualitative. The story told by the numbers is unforgiving, and resigns over 70% of the American population to resort to taking out loans to finance their education. The qualitative issues appeal to our human side, and relate to the decision making that goes in to choosing a higher education and financing options. There is a perception that debt is normal and a fact of life, but many people don’t do their homework before taking out student loans that they are then stuck with for years, if not decades.
Competition in the globalized world creates a greater need for college education than in generations before, poses a recognized essay from Ibarra Montoya, a runner up in our Student Voices scholarship program. From Montoya’s point of view, there is a disconnect between prior generations and their true understanding of how attainable or unattainable college education has become relative to their experiences just a few decades ago. However, that is the generation currently holding the political power to make the largest strides on a national level.