Student Loan Debt Is a National Problem That Needs a Solution

This month, the class of 2015 will start to receive their student loan repayment schedules now that the six-month grace period is over. This graduating class of undergraduates owes close to $70 billion in student debt, averaging out to around $35,000 a person, making the class of 2015 the most indebted class ever.

As a 2015 graduate, I am fortunate to have found a full-time union job where I earn a fair salary and have benefits such as health insurance and paid sick days, which allow me to start making a dent in paying back my student loans. Unfortunately, many of my fellow graduates have not been so fortunate.

On top of the student debt recent graduates are preparing to start paying back, new graduates also are struggling to find a stable job. Some are working at unpaid internships or part-time jobs to gain experience while others have taken up multiple part-time jobs in order to make ends meet.

This is no longer our parents’ economy or job market—it’s getting harder and harder to find a full-time job with benefits that will provide adequate financial stability.

We are struggling to get by while banks and private lenders sit back and reap the benefits from students trying to get an education in order to succeed. On average, a college-educated person younger than 40 will owe $404 a month in only student loan payments, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Instead of saving that money for their child’s future education, families are using it to pay off their own. Student loans are starting to span through generations in families, and a Young Invincibles report showed that by the year 2020, 65% of the job market will require some post-secondary degree.

College debt prevents young workers from saving for retirement, oftentimes leading them to come up short on their savings later in life.

Fewer people are choosing to buy homes and cars because their monthly payments on student loans are too high. Studies show that college graduates are less likely to start small business that provide jobs and services that contribute to the economy.

The federal government needs to take serious action to reduce the cost of higher education so that in the future everyone can have access to education and the upward mobility it can provide. It not only has an impact on young workers, but the economy as a whole. Student debt is a national problem that needs collective action, which is why earlier this year the AFL-CIO partnered with Higher Ed, Not Debt to host a hotline to help answer questions borrowers had concerning their debt.

Student debt consistently perpetuates economic inequality and limits the ability for economic mobility that higher education used to represent. College debt is negatively impacting our national economy and it is past time for the government to act.

The class of 2015 may be the most indebted class today, but that will change next May when the class of 2016 graduates and receives their student loan bills. It’s time for real action on student debt relief before it continues to ricochet through the national economy.