College Costs Weighing Down a Generation With Student Debt

Courtney Williams's picture
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On Sunday, The New York Times introduced the series “Degrees of Debt,” which examines “the implications of soaring college costs and the indebtedness of students and their families.”

Regular readers of The Choice would be highly interested in this article, as it examines some serious issues we’ve covered about college affordability, student debt and the roles that students, parents, colleges and lenders have played in the issue. It explores whether student lending is the next bubble that may cause an economic collapse; the rationale behind sticker prices and the actual prices that students typically pay; misleading financial aid letters that saddle students with $42,000 in loans; responsible lending practices; and whether college is even worth the cost.

It also examines how state funding has affected college costs and, ultimately, student borrowing. Ohio State University, for example, used to receive 25 percent of its financing from the state. That was in 1990. Today, state financing only accounts for 7 percent of its budget. “The consequence? Three out of five undergraduates at Ohio State take out loans, and the average debt is $24,840,” our colleagues report.

On the issue of affordability, more college marketing companies are promoting the premise that the expense will work out in the end; they choose their words wisely and “focus on the value of the education rather than the cost,” our colleagues write.

The piece begins with Kelsey Griffith, an Ohio Northern University graduate who owes $120,000 in student debt.

“As an 18-year-old, it sounded like a good fit to me, and the school really sold it,” she said. “I knew a private school would cost a lot of money. But when I graduate, I’m going to owe like $900 a month. No one told me that.”

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