by Amanda Menas
As graduation approaches for the class of 2016, students, young and old, recall their days in the classroom, a time before “the real world” became a reality and student debts narrowed their options in the workforce.
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According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education, delinquencies in loan repayments dropped from 22.2 percent in 2014 to 19.7 percent last year. However, one out of every five borrowers is still more than 31 days late in their payments.
The most recent data indicate 40 million people owe a staggering $1.2 trillion in student debt. Student debt is the only type of consumer debt not decreasing.
Young millennials will be graduating from higher education within the next four years, saddled with debt. As the youngest voters, college affordability is on the top of their minds this presidential election.
Sixty-one percent of voters 18 to 34 say a candidate’s position on student debt will be a major influence for whom they vote in November, according to a survey by Young Invincibles, a national non-profit that conducts policy research and analysis representing the interests of millennials.
Chelsey Herrig, a recent graduate of Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, said:
For millennial educators, this is a big issue because many of our starting salaries will be lower than what we owe. I truly believe that the younger generation of voters have recognized that college affordability really relies on who becomes the next president of the United States.
Regardless of the long-held belief of college as an “equalizer,” students are still faced with debt, many with upwards of $30,000 on their back.
Student debt is not just a problem facing millennials. Of the 75+ age bracket with federal student loans, 54 percent are in default compared to 12 percent of borrowers age 25-49.
“The difference between millennials being energized by this conversation and other generations is that we are a generation that is passionate about social justice issues, and we see the rising cost of higher education as a social justice issue,” said Herrig, chair of the NEA Student Program.