Apologies to our international readers, but this following article is going to be concerning higher education specifically in the United States. Because we have a giant problem, and that problem is student loans. The national student loan debt is higher than the GDP of Canada. Go back and read that again. We’re making more student loans than Canada is making money. 

“Go to college to make more money,” they told us. “It’ll pay off.” Yet, even those among us making bank may be struggling to pay off their tens of thousands of dollars in loans. Who decided it was a good idea to give that many loans to teenagers, let alone teenagers being led astray by boomers who lived in a completely different world of higher education costs? 

The answer to why higher education is so expensive isn’t so cut and dry. There are lots of theories: increasing administrative costs, lower state funding, student amenities, increased marketing to more profitable students, or supply and demand. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to go back to school and figure it out ourselves, but here are some numbers acquired by people with more applicable degrees. 

College costs have increased by 169%

College costs have increased by 169%. Since the 1980s, college costs have skyrocketed, but pay for young workers has only increased by 19%.

Source: CNBC

Public college costs have risen 28% more than inflation.

Public college costs have risen 28% more than inflation. In the decade before the pandemic, private college costs outpaced inflation by 19%.

Source: NBC News

Textbook prices have increased by 90%

Textbook prices have increased by 90% Between 1998 and 2016, college textbook prices increased even though recreational book prices fell by 35%.

Source: AEI

37.9% of Americans over 24 have a bachelor’s degree

37.9% of Americans over 24 have a bachelor’s degree. This is up from 30.4% in 2011. 14.3% of those have a graduate or professional degree.

Source: PEW

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The average person with student loans owes $37,113

The average person with student loans has a balance of $37,113. If you take private loans into account, that number goes up to $40,904.

Source: TIME

Americans spend about $30,000 per student a year

That number (which includes student loans, grants, and assistance) is nearly twice the average developed country. Luxembourg (where tuition is free for students) is the only country that pays more per student.

Source: The Atlantic

With a bachelor’s degree, you’ll make $15,000 more per year.

With a bachelor’s degree, you’ll make $15,000 more per year. One report estimates that young adults with a college degree have a median income of $45k, compared to the $30k of those without.

Source: CNBC

62% of adjunct professors make under $20,000 per year

62% of adjunct professors make under $20,000 per year Consider that about 50% of faculty members are adjuncts, making a median of only $2,700 per course.

Source: The Boston Globe

Student loan debt is worth $1.75 trillion

Outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. amounts to $1.75 trillion. The student loan debt is equal to about 6.5% of the U.S. gross domestic product.

Source: TIME

Only 62% who start their degree finish their program in six years

Only 62% who start their degree finish their program in six years, that number lowering to 42.2% among students at two-year public schools.

Source: PEW

40% of first-time college students enrolled at a college within 50 miles of their home

40% of first-time college students enrolled at a college within 50 miles of their home. 3.5% of the adult population does not live within 50 miles of a public university.

Source: Manhattan Institute

The federal government spends $149 billion on higher education

The federal government spends $149 billion on higher education. That’s 3.6% of all federal spending. It mostly goes to student aid, grants, and contracts.

Source: DataLab

63% of U.S. adults support making public colleges free

63% of U.S. adults support making public colleges free. 34% strongly favor it, and only 20% strongly oppose it.

Source: PEW

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