The New York Times Reports on “A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College”

Barry Lenson

The New York Times Reports on “A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College”

Soaring Cost of CollegeThe New York Times just launched “Degrees of Debt,” a series of articles that will tell the stories of students who have racked up staggering student loans.

The first article profiles a student named Kelsey Griffith, who will owe $120,000 after graduating from Ohio Northern University this month. She is working two restaurant jobs so she can start to repay her loans, and planning to move back into her parents’ home. And the debt isn’t only affecting Kelsey’s life. Her mother, who co-signed Kelsey’s loan applications, just took out a life insurance policy on Kelsey so that she will have a way to pay back the loans if her daughter dies.

That kind of story is not uncommon, as students take on bigger and bigger debt loads in order to pay for absurdly high college costs. In Kelsey Griffith’s case, she was already trying to trim those costs by attending a state school. Yet tuition and costs even at state schools are so high that a student like her can emerge owing a fortune.

Andrew Martin and Andrew W. Lehren, the authors of the Times article, use these statistics to demonstrate how badly the student debt crisis has become . . .

  • Ninety-four percent of American undergraduate students are now borrowing to pay for their education. That’s up from 45 percent in 1993. Source: Data from the U.S. Department of Education.
  • The average student borrower (both undergraduate and post-graduate) owed $23,300 in 2011. Ten percent owed more than $54,000, and 3 percent owned more than $100,000. Source:  The Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

And here’s a shocking observation . . .

Martin and Lehren also report that students who graduated from prestigious schools like Princeton and Williams usually owe a lot less than people like Kelsey Griffith, who went to a state school. Why? It’s because students who attend elite colleges usually come from wealthier families. Even if they don’t, elite colleges have enough money to offer them generous financial aid.

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