The Student Loan Debt Issue is a Union Issue

Current numbers show that total student loan debt in the United States has topped $1.2 trillion with a staggering 39 percent of the accounts ($417 billion) being in default. Since the recession of 2008, student loan debt has also increased 84% with no sign of slowing down unless Congress takes action.

Having student loan debt is far different from having a mortgage. With a mortgage, you own something that has a very good chance of increasing in value. This is far from true when it comes to student loans. In today’s economic climate, with Wall Street enjoying overly generous tax breaks and banks being bailed out of their own financial disasters, getting an education does not necessarily increase your chances of becoming employed, especially becoming employed with a good-paying job. And it definitely does not increase the amount of money in your wallet.

More than 4 out of 5 students graduate without a job and that does not include graduates who become massively under-employed, working minimum wage jobs just to get by. Graduates are living with a dark cloud hovering above them, casting shadows on any hopes other generations came by more freely such as buying a home and saving for retirement.

With many young people not being able to partake in these aspects of consumerism, heavy and long-lasting damage is being done to our economy that will affect everyone in the near future. Housing prices will fall, potentially causing another market crash. Banks will also likely face another collapse when students completely default on their loans, as many have already.

This is an issue for the entire country. People without student loan debt may not empathize, but it’s time to start seeing this differently. If your car’s engine stops running, your car is out of commission. End of story. The same goes for student loan debt. Consumer purchasing is the engine that keeps our country’s economy running smoothly. Once it goes, and once people stop spending money on things like cars and homes, the economy fails.

When this happens, everyone pays the price. Employers lay off workers, factories shut down, businesses close. With union membership already in decline, we cannot afford to lose any more members of the work force, no matter how young or no matter the type of industry.

Reform must happen. There may not be an easy answer, but there is always a way out. If banks that make tremendous and selfish mistakes are able to be saved by our government, then students who take a gamble to get an education to become productive members of our society should be given the same treatment.

From lowering interest rates (some private banks charge over 10% in interest on student loans) to keeping private banks out of the equation altogether and making the government responsible for providing affordable education, many options exist to help curb this crisis. And yes, it is indeed a crisis, and it is one we will all have to face unless action is taken.

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Posted In: Union Matters

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