Student debt crisis needs attention from US policymakers

The statistics are widely available: There is roughly $1 trillion of student debt, more than 37 million people have outstanding loans and the average sticker price of a college education exceeds $20,000 a year. And these numbers continue to climb.

Growing along with these numbers is U.S. policymakers’ focus on slowing or reversing these increases. How to handle these exorbitant debts seems to puzzle Congress and, more pointedly, the state because despite all the talk, little action has excelled at rescuing debt-laden Generation Y students.

In an attempt to give the debt crisis more light, the Illinois Student Senate created an ad hoc Student Debt Awareness committee Wednesday. Currently, there is no committee in ISS that specifically handles student debt, and the topic appears on its agenda only when a senator seems to think it imperative to speak about it.

The creation of the committee will not solve the debt crisis faced by our generation, and is it likely to create any noticeable dent in it, but it will give students facing the seismic weight of student debt a voice in the matter. ISS has the ability to take its legislation before the University and before the state, and the personal stories of University students, who face some of the highest in-state tuition prices in the U.S., could push the state to solve the problem more swiftly.

It might seem silly to create a specific committee to bring more awareness to something so real to students, but we don’t think it is.

Our generation has become so vastly dependent on loans and our parents to take us in when we simply can’t make payments or find sufficient employment. Education was once a cost that was worth the thousands of dollars in loans, but the difficulty of finding a job or paying down the debts we accumulate seems to signal otherwise.

But we are also dependent on a college education. Secretary and office assistant jobs for Generation X could be secured with a good work ethic and a high school diploma, but that’s not the case any longer.

We can’t make it in this country without a college degree, but we also can’t make it with one.

Students living with this debt are acutely aware of the dire situation a few months after graduation. Most legislators understand it, but several of them haven’t lived with it like we do now.

Our generation is alone in this burden, but now it seems fixing it is out of our control. We can’t boycott college; we can’t just skip it because it’s too expensive. For better or worse, we have to go.

All we can afford is to voice our experiences and hope that it gets through to our government that this cannot continue.