Most students go into debt to pay for college. And while no one wants to be in the red, a new report from left-leaning think tank Demos argues that the increasingly debt-financed higher education system in the United States is especially harmful to low-income, black and Latino kids.
Here are 7 charts that show just how we're failing to deliver, as the report says, on "our nation’s historical commitment to ensuring everyone—regardless of race or class—can afford to go to college."
1. First, some context. Student loan debt is rising, as is the amount of debt people are borrowing to pay for school. Part of that likely has to do with the fact that family incomes have been largely stagnant for decades, while tuition costs—and things like room and board—have climbed.
2. Predictably, low-income students (those who receive Pell Grants to help pay for school) are far more likely to borrow money to pay for school than students who do not receive the grants. While Pell Grants help, at less than $6,000 a year, they rarely cover everything.
3. When they borrow, black and low-income students take out higher loans than their white peers. The same is true when it comes to associates degrees. In fact, during the recession, student debt among people pursuing associates degrees soared.
4. When it comes to for-profit schools (think defunct Corinthian Colleges), everyone is borrowing, and multiple companies have been accused of predatory practices. California just told ITT Tech it must stop enrolling students who pay for school with GI Bill funding because the company reportedly failed to produce audited financial statements.
5. At the same time that they are more likely to take out student loans, borrowers of color and low-income borrowers are also more likely to drop out, and often cite student debt as a reason. In other words, they're in a Catch-22. Once they drop out, loan holders are often stuck struggling to repay their debt with no degree or career prospects to show for the work they've put in.
6. Student debt holders who are lucky enough to find employment report being less satisfied with their jobs, which may be because they feel pressured to take more-lucrative-but-less-rewarding jobs that will allow them to repay their loans.
7. With tuition increasing and state funding stagnate, there's little relief in sight for students.
The 2016 election cycle could spark at least a conversation on that front, however.
Hillary Clinton has already said she'd like community college to be free. And presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is going even further. On Tuesday he'll introduce a plan to make all public colleges free a la Germany and Sweden.
Don't get too excited, though. He'd reportedly pay for it with the so-called Robin Hood Tax. Between that and the fact that making college free would likely require empowering the government to regulate costs, Republicans will be running in the other direction.
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.