Rising student loan debt has many wondering if changes will be made

A massive amount of student loan debt is being created by federal lending programs, which has many wondering if changes will be made to improve the system.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently reported U.S. student loan debt rose by $42 billion, or 4.6 percent, in the third quarter alone, raising the total amount of student debt to $956 billion.

“We are very concerned about the current trends associated with increased borrowing,” Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid Kirk Yats said.

Student loans affect plenty of students. Nearly 20 million Americans attend college every year, and 60 percent of them borrow annually to cover the cost, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Many students have issues paying off what they have borrowed.  Only 37 percent of federal student loan borrowers managed to make timely payments without postponing payments between 2004 and 2009, according to Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Though the trend is an issue, the rising amount of money being borrowed is nothing new to Yats.

“Student loan borrowing has been increasing since I began working in financial aid in 1989,” he said. “As the cost of education continues to increase, we see more students and parents demonstrating an increased need (for money).  It is certainly logical to expect to see the borrowing levels increase.”

Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts Professor Curt Sutterfield suggests the media is playing a role in the increased emphasis on rising student loans.

“This isn't a new issue. People in my generation who went to school had to deal with loans, too. The media has picked up on the story more because there is an emphasis on higher education,” he said.

Sutterfield hopes the government will realize the importance of higher education and make major changes.

“It’s frustrating our schooling isn’t covered in our taxes like the Netherlands. I would love for our country to look at higher education as something more valuable,” he said. “I think the government looks at the price and just groans instead of looking at what it does for a student.”

The federal government has been trying to help out students in recent years. The U.S. Department of Education has tightened standards on loans to parents and graduate students and has allowed borrowers to postpone payments during times of “hardship,” as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The Obama administration has also finalized rules that would allow certain borrowers to have their remained debt forgiven after 20 years. This could only happen if the borrower makes monthly payments at 10 percent of their income throughout the duration of the loan.

More changes will be made in the near future, Yats said.

“There is lots of talk about possible changes that may be on the horizon for the student loan programs,” he said. “The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is actively involved with the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act. This process takes place approximately every four to six years.”

The university is also doing what it can to help lighten the weight for students and is constantly looking to improve financial aid options.

 “Over the past six to seven years, CMU has consistently increased the amount of institutional funds for scholarships, need-based grants and work awards,” Yats said. “We are closely monitoring student debt, and we are very concerned about affordability.”


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