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STATEMENT: Maggie Thompson on the Dangers of Downplaying the Student Debt Crisis

Washington, D.C.—A bevy of recent commentary has focused on dispelling the fact that the student debt crisis is, indeed, a crisis. Despite the nation’s student loan debt balance standing at just over $1.3 trillion and affecting some 43 million Americans, a troubling new narrative seeks to downplay the impact of the debt through a false dichotomy: that the benefits of a college degree outweigh the dangers of taking out student loans. Maggie Thompson, Executive Director of Generation Progress, issued the following statement in response:

“It is undeniable that holding a college degree is essential in getting ahead in our modern economy. Still, young workers’ wages have stagnated while the cost of college has skyrocketed, placing an enormous burden on students to finance their own educations without the guarantee of a good-paying job upon graduation. In other words, more and more students need to borrow for a degree, but fewer and fewer students are reaping the economic benefits of that degree in time to pay off their debt without penalty.

Likewise, it is critical to highlight that the face of today’s borrower isn’t just the upwardly mobile professional with graduate school debt, as is typically cast by mainstream reporting. We know that borrowers with smaller loan balances tend to experience higher levels of delinquency, and we also know these lower-income borrowers face fewer labor market opportunities and lower earnings. As these types of borrowers make up the majority of student loan borrowers nationwide, ignoring these facts is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous. Surely, there isn’t one broad solution that will mitigate the $1.3 trillion on the table, but any solution that does not take into account the many circumstances and faces of student loan borrowers will only continue to reinforce inequality and marginalize lower-income borrowers.”

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Kyle Epstein at kepstein@americanprogress.org or 202.481.8137

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