According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 41 percent of those ages 18-24 are enrolled in college. It stands to reason that as a nation we should be happy about that. After all, the benefits of getting a college education are well documented. But it looks like those numbers could falter a bit, depending on the outcome of the next presidential election. If you plan to go to college, or are currently attending, you will want to pay extra attention to this issue when it's time to cast your ballot!
For those who haven't checked out the price for a college education today, they will find that the prices have been significantly rising. Some reports show that the cost of college has gone up as much as 11-15 percent within just the last two years. On top of that problem is the fact that unemployment has been rising, the economy is dragging, and many people graduating with degrees today can't get jobs beyond mixing lattes at Starbucks (not that there's anything wrong with Starbucks, but most people don't go to college in hopes of working there).
So what's happening is that students who are going to college are graduating with massive student loan debt. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the costs each year to go to college on average are around $13,600 for public universities and $36,000 for private institutions. What that means is that the average person graduating from college will have spent over $50,000 on their education. If they come out making a good salary and are able to secure a job in their field they will be able to afford the loans. Maybe.
It's estimated that Americans owe around $870 billion in student loan debt. Many of those people are in default, and the government is actually beginning to turn to law firms to try and recover those debts. Problem is, some people have pay-back amounts of $600 or more per month. Most people, in all honesty, cannot afford to pay back such amounts on a monthly basis. What's more, the government is debating whether or not to double the interest rate on student loans.
College students, and those who are college bound, need to worry not just about the student loan issues, but about Pell Grants as well. Those students who have lower income or can qualify for Pell Grants may find that they are the only hope they have in going to college. The Pell Grant program provides nearly 9 million students with financial help to go to college. The grants that these students receive range from $555 to $5,550 per year.
The problem is that who you vote for in this election will make a big difference in the number of people who go to college in the near future. It may impact you, your children, or those high school students in your community who will graduate within the next couple of years. The Romney plan intends to make cuts to education, starting with Pell Grants, for example. Many people will lose their only hope in being able to go to college.
Anyone who has paid attention to President Obama knows that he is a man who advocates for education in this country. He understands that when our nation's youth are educated they will have a better chance at living the American dream. They will have better access to the higher paying, more satisfying jobs, and they will be able to give back more financially. What Republicans may not realize when it comes to our college loans and Pell Grants issue is that when people earn that college degree they are likely to make more money per year, and as a result will pay more taxes each year.
We as a nation should want our youth to continue going to college, continue getting the financial assistance they need, and to be able to afford their loans once they graduate. When you step into that voting booth next month keep in mind that both parties differ when it comes to the access to a college education in this country. One party wants to cut the funding to those who need it the most, which may prevent them from ever having the opportunity to go to college. They also want to raise interest rates, so those students paying back debt will become buried, fall into default, and possibly give up hope of ever being able to pay it back.
On the flip side, the other party is for helping to level the playing field. They want to provide funding to those who need it, keep student loan interest rates lower, and give college-bound students the help they need to succeed. President Obama has always cared about the college student, and if re-elected, will continue to do so.