The Reality Of Student Debt Is Different From The Clichés
Career College Central summary:
The deeply indebted college graduate has become a stock character in the national conversation: the art history major with $50,000 in debt, the underemployed barista with $75,000, the struggling poet with $100,000. The anecdotes have created the impression that such high levels of student debt are typical. But they’re not. They are outliers, and they’re warping our understanding of bigger economic problems.
In fact, the share of income that young adults are devoting to loan repayment has remained fairly steady over the last two decades, according to data the Brookings Institutions is releasing on Tuesday. Only 7 percent of young-adult households with education debt have $50,000 or more of it. By contrast, 58 percent of such households have less than $10,000 in debt, and an additional 18 percent have between $10,000 and $20,000.
The misperceptions matter because they distract us from the real trouble with our higher education system. It’s not the graduates of expensive colleges who are struggling to get started on a career. Such graduates make for good stories (and they tend to involve the peer group of journalists), but history suggests that most of them will do just fine.
The vastly bigger problem is the hundreds of thousands people who emerge from college with a modest amount of debt yet no degree. For them, college is akin to a house that they had to make the down payment on but can’t live in. In a cost-benefit calculation, they get only the cost. And they are far, far more numerous than bachelor’s degree holders with huge debt burdens.
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THE NEW YORK TIMES