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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 5/9/14

Instead of Exploiting the Newest Generation of Americans, Let's Invest in Them

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Cross-posted from Smirking Chimp


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>America's student loan debt crisis is deforming an entire generation.

Right now, America's outstanding student loan debt stands at over $1.18 trillion.

More than 40 million Americans hold student loan debt; that's more people than the populations of Canada, Australia, Poland and 200 other countries. And of those 40 million borrowers, around 7 million have defaulted on their debt.

The average debt for a 25-year-old American student has risen a staggering 91 percent over the past decade, and most of that is student loan debt. Student loan debt exceeds both credit card and auto loan debt in America, and the average debt per person is over $23,000.

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And, according to a study by Hamilton Place Strategies, by 2023, the average amount of debt that college students graduate with will equal what the median college graduate will earn every year.

That same study found that "average student debt at graduation has skyrocketed by 200 percent since 1993..."

These mountains of student loan debt that are burdening millions of Americans are killing our economy, society, and even our health. Last year, the New York Federal Reserve showed that there's been an actual drag on our economy, just because of growing levels of student loan debt.

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Americans with piles of student loan debt have less money to spend on anything from consumer products to homes.

And as The Washington Post points out, first-time home buyers, usually college graduates, are, or at least used to be, "the bedrock of the housing market." But, since millions of college graduates are drowning in debt, they can't afford to buy a home, which is killing America's housing recovery.

Meanwhile, according to a report from the One Wisconsin Institute, the devastating effects of student loan debt also translate into more than $6 billion in lost car sales each year. And, the chief economist for General Motors has even said that student loan debt is one of, if not THE major reason why millennials aren't buying cars.

Student loan debt also keeps Americans out of good jobs.

When former students default on their student loan debt, their credit rating plummets. And, unfortunately, many employers today run credit-score checks on potential hires, which means that the millions of Americans who have defaulted on their debt, and who therefore have rock-bottom credit scores, won't get hired.

But student loan debt isn't just having devastating effects on our economy. It's also contributing to a variety of social and health problems too. Student loan debt is causing Americans to start families later in life.

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A report from the economic forecasting firm IHS Global Insight found that between 2007 and 2011, while other forms of debt were falling, student loan debt was steadily increasing. As IHS points out, during the same time period, the median age of a first marriage for men went from 27.5 years old to 28.7 years old, while for women it went from 25.6 years old to 26.5 years old.

The IHS report found that fertility rates, which are defined as the number of birth per 1,000 women aged 15-44, decreased substantially from 69.3 percent in 2007 to under 65 percent in in 2011.

Meanwhile, suicide rates and mental health illnesses are higher for people struggling with debt.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War (more...)
 
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