The American Student Debt Epidemic

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In addition to all the other stresses brought on by college life, 70 percent of undergrads also have to worry about how they're going to pay back their student debt after they graduate. Photo courtesy of

Stefano Ausenda, Contributing Editor

According to a recent report, back in 1971, the average yearly tuition at a private nonprofit university in the United States cost just over $2800.

$2800 back in 1971, adjusted for inflation, is equivalent to approximately $18,100 in 2019. Pace students, can you imagine if tuition here only cost you $18,100 a year? How would your life as a college student change? Would what you value and how you envision your future change?

Unfortunately, we live in a country where that is not the case. Today, the average yearly tuition at private non-profit universities like Pace, is almost $49,000; the total student debt in the country is just under $1.7 trillion, surpassing both credit card and auto loan debt, and one in every four Americans, or 44.7 million, currently have student loan debt.

After graduating, a college student who took out student loans owes an average of over $37,000, which is more than a lot of them make in an entire year.

It’s very sad to me that for 70 percent of college students, getting a college education becomes synonymous with years or decades of paying back a seemingly insurmountable amount of student loan debt.  This is the reality that a lot of them are met with after graduating, instead of new and exciting job opportunities within their field. Some graduation gift!

I know a lot of students from my high school who would have loved to go to college here in the states, but knew how expensive it was. Because they didn’t want to be in debt for decades, most chose to go to school in either Canada or the U.K. In Canada, the average university tuition for international students ranges from 20,600 to 23,300 U.S. dollars a year, and for Canadian citizens, it’s even cheaper. University in the U.K. is also relatively costly, with tuition for international students costing more than for U.K or E.U. citizens. In countries like Norway, Spain, and Brazil, to name a few, students don’t have to pay a cent for their four-year education at any public university!

Countries like Norway, Spain, and Brazil operate their governments very differently than we operate ours here in the states, so making all American public universities free within five years, in my opinion, is not that realistic or feasible. What else can be done, then, to solve this national crisis affecting our generation so that getting a decent education is no longer synonymous with going broke?

Well, we are the citizens, and the citizens have the power to take a stand and make a change within our community. One of the most famous quotes ever is “united we stand, divided we fall.” And if we want to combat this issue, that’s the first thing we need to do, come together; not just as Pace students, but as students at all the universities across the country. We need to link arms and say, “enough is enough! We’re not going to take this anymore, and something needs to be done now!”