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“Rising student-loan debt is an economic emergency. Forty million people are dealing with $1.2 trillion in outstanding student debt. It’s stopping young people from buying homes, from buying cars and from starting small businesses. We need to take action.” ~ Senator Elizabeth Warren
There’s a mass migration happening in the U.S. — one where students are moving to greener educational pastures abroad. Take Hunter Newsome. At the last minute, he chose to ditch an opportunity to study at the University of California, Davis and instead headed off to Estonia to earn his bachelors. He saves more than $10K per year in tuition, and will finish his degree in three years instead of four. Chelsea Workman is another student fed up with the cost of education in America. She left Ohio State University in the middle of her sophomore year to complete her degree in Germany — where education is free, even for foreigners. And Germany isn’t unique with its free education system; over 44 countries offer it as well, including Argentina, Denmark, Slovenia, Greece, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Uruguay, Scotland and Turkey.
This all begs the question: Why are Americans saddled with such astronomically high student debt when other countries seem to manage without it?
The Role Colleges and Politicians Play in the Rising Tide of Student Debt
Since 1985, the cost of higher education has surged more that 500 percent in the United States. To put this in perspective, a $10,000 education in 1985 would cost over $50,000 today. And it’s not simply because of inflation. A landmark study in 2015 found that flooding money into higher education by the federal government triggered an increase in tuition and fees — around 65 cents for every dollar of new subsidized loans. In short, colleges and universities that have a large number of average students raise their tuition so they can take advantage of as much of the new federal money as possible. “This means that a significant portion of the $1.3 trillion in student debt can be attributed to tuition inflation pushed along by the flood of student loan money in recent years,” said Chuck DeVore of Forbes.
Additionally, vocational and career training in high school — classes like auto shop, wood shop, metal shop, home economics and business accounting — have significantly declined since the 1980s. Over the course of two decades, parents and politicians alike began to expect every student would go to college — instead of developing vocational skills, where they would be employable straight out of high school. Part of this shift involves advancements in technology. Students can no longer learn on an old junker in auto shop because cars are increasingly sophisticated with computerized elements. Gone are the days of learning to type on hearty manual typewriters as well — computers with expensive hardware and software are the norm now. With this new era of technology, schools cannot keep up with the price tag.