An astounding 70% of college seniors had student loan debt in 2012. According to a study by the Institute for College Access and Success, the average student loan debt for a 2012 graduate was about $30,000. And it's about to go up.
Every year for the past 30 years college tuition and fees have been rising anywhere from 2 to 5%. Four-year public college and universities now cost an average $9,000 a year, including room and board, for in-state residents and private nonprofit colleges cost an average $41,000, according to The College Board.
This September students will not only be paying more for school than they paid last year, but they will also be charged higher rates for new loans.
As of July 1, Stafford loans will carry a 4.66% rate for undergraduates and 6.21% for graduate students. PLUS loans, used by parents and graduate students, will charge 7.21%. All these rates are set as a differential above the 10-year Treasury note.
For perspective, consider that 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates are just over 4%.
Bloomberg reports that the rate increase amounts to just $46 more per payment on a $10,000 loan paid out over 10 years. But Jen Wang, policy and advocacy manager at Young Invincibles, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the problems of young people in America, says the rate increase is a bigger deal than that.
"It's a big deal because we've got a $1.2 trillion student debt crisis in this country," says Wang. "One in three young people who graduate from college this year moved back home with their parents. We've got young people not buying homes, not buying cars. It seems like the trends we've been seeing in our economy are really changing because of our student debt."
Wang offered their solutions to the problem of student debt and unemployment:
- Protect and boost the Pell grant program. The program provides grants up to a maximum $5,730 in the upcoming academic year, to low-income students. They do not have to repay anything nor pay interest.
- Allow student loan borrowers to refinance their debt. "We've seen our parents refinance their mortgages but we can't refinance our own debt," says Wang.
- Explore alternative pathways for success, including apprenticeship programs, for unemployed youth--both college graduates and those who didn't attend college.
Congress has the authority to address all of the above and bills have been introduced but so far none of them have been passed.
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