The average student borrower now graduates with $27,600 of debt, almost three and a half times what it was a decade ago. 84 percent of black students and 66 percent of Latino students graduate with debt. And 39 percent of all student borrowers graduate with unmanageable levels of debt, according to the Department of Education.
To make matters worse, these stifling debt levels are being exacerbated by a weak job market.
Between 2000 and 2003, wages for college educated men and women between 23 and 29 years of age were down 3.5 percent and 1.2 percent respectively. In this flat, stagnant job market, most new opportunities are in jobs like burger flipping and jeans folding. Manpower, a temp agency, is the biggest private employer in the country. Many jobs in more desirable and competitive industries have salaries starting in the low $20,000s that offer little by way of benefits or healthcare.
What about student loans you say? They help a little bit, but not nearly enough.
Today, the average Pell Grant covers only 40 percent of college tuition, compared to 77 percent 25 years ago. And under President Bush, the Department of Education revised Pell Grant eligibility guidelines, effectively excluding almost 100,000 young people from the program and reducing grant money for another 1.2 million.
And the cuts are going to get even worse:
The Senate recommended slashing $14 billion in student aid programs as part of the budget reconciliation process. The House of Representatives proposed nearly $9 billion in similar cuts, forcing the average student borrower to pay an additional $5,800 in already unaffordable debt. Despite some unusual Republican dissent in the ranks, late last night, the budget bill passed by a razor thin margin. The final bill included $50 billion in cuts, including $14.3 billion in cuts to federal higher education funding, the largest cuts to federal student loans in American history.
Our country chooses to give huge tax breaks to the rich - those people who can pay for 100% of their children's ivy league educations - but they do it at the expense of those who need help the most. These children are the future of our country; without adequate financial support, middle and low income students have less opportunity and less chance to achieve the American dream. Apparently, Washington doesn't give a damn about our children, only those of their rich friends.