Colleges believed to be at fault for rising student debt, new study finds

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, December 3, 2013

A new study by the Harvard University Institute of Politics has found that young Americans attribute the rising student debt levels in the United States – which they consider to be a major issue facing the nation – to colleges, rather than the government or financial institutions.

According to the study, which was released exclusively to The Huffington Post Tuesday, 42 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 believe that colleges are responsible for the rising amount of student debt in the United States, compared to 39 percent of respondents who attribute it to the government. Just 8 percent of respondents believe that students themselves are responsible.

The study also found that 68 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 see rising student debt levels a “major problem,” while 21 percent consider it to be a “minor problem.” HuffPalso noted that it didn’t matter whether the adult attended college or not, as 54 percent of adults who aren’t enrolled in college still consider student debt to be a major issue.

Student loan debt has climbed exponentially in recent years, so much so that it has increased 12-fold in the last 30 years alone, resulting in federal student debt reaching more than $1 trillion this past summer. Unfortunately, it has become more of a necessity for young Americans today to have a college degree – thus creating a Catch-22 situation for many students.

“Young people who are coming of age today understand that getting a postsecondary education is important [but] they have a lot of fear about the rising cost of higher education,” said Rory O’Sullivan, the policy and research director for Young Invincibles, an organization geared toward representing young people in policy debates.

A clear indicator of why many young Americans believe colleges are the most at fault for the rising costs is how colleges are spending their money. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, for example, recently spent more than $42,000 on four table umbrellas containing solar panels for students to charge their electronics at. Moreover, a report by Deadspin released earlier this year found that in four out of five states football or basketball coaches are the highest-paid government officials in the state.

“Too many colleges are acting in the interest of building prestige over providing an affordable pathway to higher learning for their students,” Matthew Segal, the co-founder and head of millennial advocacy nonprofitOurTime.org, told HuffPo.

To help ease the problem, some colleges have capped or reduced tuition for enrolled students, or considered taking part in a scheme that would make college tuition contingent upon the student’s future earnings. Washington has taken note of the severity of the college debt issue, prioritizing the debate overkeeping the federal student loan interest rate low past July 1st and proposing ways to make college more affordable to students.

Nonetheless, it’s blatantly clear from the study that people think colleges are partly at fault, and as a result must have a role in any solution to the problem if it is to be fixed anytime soon.

The Harvard Institute of Politics surveyed 371 18-to-24-year-olds in both English and Spanish from October 30 to November 11, 2013. The study has a margin of error of +/- 5.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. 

 

h/t The Huffington Post

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