40 Statistics Proving the U.S. Student Debt Crisis Is Solvable

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Written by Rochelle Burnside | October 29th, 2019
Rochelle Burnside is a Content Management Specialist for Best Company. She is hungry for knowledge, travel deals, and a big spicy bowl of chili.

Money Pile and Graduation Cap

Americans disagree on a lot of things, and what to do about student debt is yet another source of partisan conflict.

Researchers have extensively covered the deleterious effects of student debt on the economy, the culture, and the individual. Much has been said regarding the negative outlook for our national burden of student debt.

But amid the dispute, crisis, and conflicting polls, we’ve found some instances of consensus, and some statistics suggesting that change is coming.

Americans can rally around these themes while they attempt to tackle the issue of student debt. Finding common ground creates hope for graduates who are struggling to pay off their student loans and proves the student debt crisis is solvable.

Money on Fire

We are more aware of the crisis than ever before

  • 93% of American college attendees/graduates and 89% of parents think we are facing a student debt crisis. (Freedom Debt Relief, 2019)
  • Another survey found that 79% of millennials across all party affiliations consider student debt to be a problem. (Harvard, 2014)
  • More than two thirds of Americans say student loan debt is a threat to the economy. (Politico, 2019)

We’re still optimistic about the worth of higher education and the future

  • 82% of students are optimistic about their future. (Cenngage, 2019)
  • 61% of students think they’ll be better off than their parents. (Cenngage, 2019)
  • Just one in five graduates would tell a younger version of themselves not to go to college. (YouGov, 2019)
  • 85% of Americans still think public community colleges are worth the cost, and 78% are comfortable contributing their tax dollars to them. (New America, 2019)
  • 84% of families think college can help a student land a higher paying job. (Sallie Mae and Ipsos, 2019)

Graduation Caps

And we’re willing to admit we need some change

  • Only 36% of soon-to-be and current grads think the country is headed in the right direction. (Cenngage, 2019)
  • 65% of Americans disagree that higher education in America is fine how it is. (New America, 2019)

We can learn from other countries' choices

  • At $1.6 trillion, some experts estimate we have the largest amount of national student loan debt in the world. (Though it’s worth noting we don't have the highest debt per average student). We could be taking notes from nearly anyone else. (Bloomberg, 2019)
  • One third of countries don't charge any tuition fees to national students enrolled in a public institution. (OECD, 2016)
  • Another third of countries charge low or moderate annual tuition, less than $2,600. (OECD, 2016)

Vote Sign

Policymakers have a vested interest in remedying student debt

  • One tenth of Congress is paying off student debt for themselves or for a family member. (Roll Call, 2018)
  • According to Data for Progress, political sway for Democrat candidates comes down to their stance on student debt. Public support for Democrats without student debt is net +5, but support for Democrats among student debt holders is net +12. (Data for Progress, 2019)
  • That’s why, of those currently running, 17 of the 19 Democrat presidential candidates have proposed a remedy to the student debt crisis; and 2 of the 4 2020 Republican candidates have clearly outlined a solution for student debt. (Student Loan Hero, 2019; Politico, 2019)

We’re supporting policy proposals

  • 63% of survey respondents believe the government should take more responsibility in funding higher education. (New America, 2019)
  • One third of Americans blame the government for high student loan debt. (CreditRepair.com, 2019)
  • 58% of Hill-HarrisX poll respondents support canceling existing student debt and making college free for all. (Hill-HarrisX, 2019)
  • And despite partisan disagreement on several student debt policies, 71% of Democrats and 63% of Republicans support the proposal of the College for All act to reduce student loan interest to 2.32%, guaranteeing it will never rise over 8.25%. (YouGov, 2019)
  • 63% of Americans say they’d support expanding public student loan forgiveness. (Freedom Debt Relief, 2019)
  • 54% say they’d support free or subsidized tuition for low-income households. (Freedom Debt Relief, 2019)
  • And 53% say they’d support tax breaks for companies offering student loan repayment programs. (Freedom Debt Relief, 2019)

Read also: Here Are Six Major 2019 Policy Proposals More People Need to Talk About

Loose Change

Some universities are catching on

  • 68% of college governing board respondents said the price of higher education is one of their top three concerns. (AGB, 2017)
  • 41% listed student debt in one of their top three concerns. (AGB, 2017)
  • Almost three in four said the price of a degree is too expensive. (AGB, 2017)
  • At least 32 schools now offer three-year degree programs, with most of these programs established after 2005. (PPI, 2018)
  • In 2014, 50 universities had competency-based educational programs; in 2018, 600 universities are in the process of adopting competency-based programs. (Wiley Education Services, 2018)

We’re changing where we enroll

  • Seven in 10 survey respondents say that their financial circumstances played a role in university selection. (Harvard, 2014)
  • Four fifths of students want to see universities offering education and skills training over offering majors; 70% want to go to a college that employs this method. (College Savings Foundation, 2018)
  • While college admission declines, trade school admission grows. Less than 10 million students attended a trade school in 1999; 16 million attended in 2014. (The Quad, 2019)

Calculator

We’re bringing employers into the conversation

  • 47% of employers don’t think college is preparing students for work. (Learning House, 2018)
  • Two thirds of employers are willing to consider hiring candidates with certification in lieu of a four-year degree. (Learning House, 2018)
  • Two thirds of employers are typically open to hiring a candidate without a four-year degree; 0 respondents said they were never open to the possibility. (Learning House, 2018)
  • While only 3% of employers currently offer student loan repayment assistance, 24% of employers have some interest in adding it. (IonTuition, 2017, published in CNBC)

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