Monday, May 13, 2013

The New Debt Slavery

Student loan debts will be the death of the American Dream once and for all.

It's all deliberate, of course, to keep both higher education and a middle-class lifestyle out of the reach of the masses.

Education is one of the two ways the vast majority of people have for upward mobility. The other is the existence of labor unions, and those are pretty much gone with the exception of public employment.

Our privatizers are steadily working on that angle.

Everyone recognizes that education is the only way up, but as a college degree becomes increasingly essential to making one’s way in a 21st-century economy, education for those not to the manner born is increasingly unaffordable. Student debt for graduating seniors now exceeds $26,000, about a 40 percent increase in just seven years. But an “average” like this masks huge variations.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, almost 13 percent of student-loan borrowers of all ages owe more than $50,000, and nearly 4 percent owe more than $100,000. These debts are beyond students’ ability to repay, (especially in our nearly jobless recovery); this is demonstrated by the fact that delinquency and default rates are soaring. Some 17 percent of student-loan borrowers were 90 days or more behind in payments at the end of 2012. When only those in repayment were counted — in other words, not including borrowers who were in loan deferment or forbearance — more than 30 percent were 90 days or more behind. For federal loans taken out in the 2009 fiscal year, three-year default rates exceeded 13 percent.

America is distinctive among advanced industrialized countries in the burden it places on students and their parents for financing higher education. America is also exceptional among comparable countries for the high cost of a college degree, including at public universities. Average tuition, and room and board, at four-year colleges is just short of $22,000 a year, up from under $9,000 (adjusted for inflation) in 1980-81.

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