We all know student loan debt leaves people in challenging financial situations long after they’ve graduated from college. But the side effects of student loan debt can cause more issues than just massive monthly payments. Student loans can affect a person’s entire life, from not being able to buy a house to physical and mental health challenges.
Student loan debt can also impact our economy. Forgiving student loan debt and making college more affordable for future generations would remedy some of these problems.
The personal financial issues are obvious. Because of the increasing cost of attendance, many students need to borrow more money for school. This leads some graduates to feel trapped in debt and unable to accomplish the goals they went to college for in the first place. The long-term payments and interest make it harder to save money, start a business, pursue a career or buy a home.
In a recent survey by Harris Poll for Bloomberg, nearly half of people aged 18 to 29 live at home with their parents. One major factor listed for returning home was not being able to save money to buy a house while paying down debt.
There is also a strong correlation between mental and emotional problems and student loan debt. A survey by Student Loan Planner found 53% of high debt student loan borrowers have experienced depression because of their debt.”
Decreased physical health can also result from student loan debt as shown by a Northwestern study in 2013. Researchers found that students who face serious debt may have an increase in diastolic blood pressure that can increase the risk of hypertension and stroke.
Some argue taking on this debt is a choice and government help shouldn’t be provided. However, student loan debt affects more than the individual borrower — it can create issues in the economy. For example, with student loan payments restarting this month after a pause for the pandemic, there will be less money for some households to spend at retailers and restaurants. Fewer people will feel able to open their own business. Some may even postpone starting a family.
A first step in fixing this issue is providing more government funding for education so the cost of attendance isn’t so high. Students should be able to pay their way through school without taking on massive loans. Making college more affordable also opens the doors to more people who want to pursue a degree.
Anyone who wants to go to college should have the opportunity. This is an investment in the future.
In order to address the problems of the past, most or all student loan debt should be forgiven. There are many proposals for how best to do this, including debt cancellation and reduced payment plans. Some plans have already been rolled out to qualified borrowers. But these plans are being challenged in court and it is uncertain if they will be allowed to continue providing relief.
This is an issue that affects millions of people in the United States. People who can’t afford to buy a house or pay for medical care. People whose health may be negatively affected. The rising cost of college and the massive amount of student loan debt needs to be addressed soon so current and future generations have a better chance to succeed in life.
Jack Davis (he/him) is a freshman studying journalism.