Student Debt and the American Dream

graduation caps

By Molly Leischner

| According to an article in The Nation, the price of just one year of college in America has increased by more than 1,200 percent in the past thirty years. Due to the high cost of a college education – an average annual tuition cost of $23,410 for in-state public colleges and $46,272 for private colleges according to CollegeData – most students have to take out large loans from the government as well as from private sources. Unfortunately, two-thirds of American college students wind up graduating with thousands of dollars in debt ($26,600 on average) and often without the type of job they expected when they initially enrolled – the type of job that would enable them to pay off their debts. If a student were paying a 6% rate on his debt of $26,600, he would pay just shy of $300 a month over the course of the standard 10-year repayment plan, according to an online repayment calculator. So, why do we seek a higher education if it will just leave us in debt? These days, almost every employer requires a college degree. This has convinced us that it is acceptable for us to pay such high tuition in hopes of obtaining a degree and getting a job that will help us climb out of poverty and achieve the “American Dream.” For those who are a little skeptical of this or can’t afford to pay for college, maybe you should head over to Europe to obtain your college education.

Free education is a concept in Europe that the United States should really consider. A higher education in Germany, for example, is free throughout the country, even for international students. German senator for science, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, believes that tuition fees are “unjust,” and according to minister for science and culture in Lower Saxony, Gabrielle Heinen-Kjajic, Germany abolished tuition fees because they didn’t want higher education to “depend on the wealth of the parents” (Think Progress). In the U.S., it is nearly impossible for a working-class, or even middle-class, student to graduate without any debt. America should follow in Germany’s footsteps and make public universities free to all students. And as it turns out, it would not be particularly difficult for us to do so. According to an article in Think Progress, the U.S. government spends billions of dollars subsidizing college education and in student loans, and tuition at all public universities are notably less. If we could restructure the current education budget, we could bring down the cost of American college tuition, potentially to zero.

A free education would be incredibly beneficial to millions of Americans, and I believe it would lead to greater happiness. No one wants to live a life drowning in debt, constantly stressed about money. The American Dream is to work hard and have it pay off through success and prosperity. Currently, college students graduate with so much debt that big purchases, like buying a car or house, are nowhere in the near future. If a higher education were offered at no cost and with no strings attached, we would be able to achieve the American Dream much sooner and at a younger age.

Image: Flikr


  1. Julius L.

    I want to cite you but I to know if you’re a college student and if you are which I am assuming. What college did you attend? That would be most helpful pleases and thank you.

    1. Deric Gruen

      This author was a student at the University of Washington

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *