By Cynthia Chang
| Countless essays, meeting deadlines, preparing for the next exams, squeezing in a few extracurricular activities and leadership roles in hope for a more competitive resume, and a part time job to support tuition expenses, and on top of all, an invisible pressure to do well, graduate on time, and ultimately find a high ROI career.
All of the above often leads to great pressure, anxiety, and even mental health issues such as depression. But during last few decades, another source of stress was added to the list: student loans.
A recent study conducted by Northwestern University found that 24-32- year-olds reported greater incidents of depression as results of high financial debt from college loan. It should be no surprise the study comes to such conclusion as students without debts often get to enjoy the privilege of having a full social calendar, while those who carry loans and debt often find themselves isolated from extracurricular activities and other debt-free students.
In another study conducted by Public Agenda, most dropouts leave college because they have trouble going to school while working to support themselves. The report pointed out among those who dropped out, nearly 6 in 10 got no help from family in paying tuition. Among those who dropped out, nearly 6 in 10 had tuition help from their families. Not only is there a growing gap in college graduation rates between the rich and the poor, but having a student loan doesn’t seem to help relieve the burden.
Student loan debt has skyrocketed to over $1 trillion dollars in the past two decades, which is higher than credit card debt. As Obama Administration attempt to improve the nation’s competitiveness by improving college graduate rate, it seems like those who are under the burden of financial loans and struggling to pay tuition are left out of the conversation. This new for-profit neoliberal university system is disenfranchising students by putting them in massive debt just to acquire a degree. It seems counterintuitive to upward mobility since those with college degrees tend to have higher earnings, better health, yet, the prerequisites to a college degree is a considerable amount of family wealth and money.
While Germany open both arms and welcome students entering in college by offering free tuition, the price of higher education in the U.S. continue to increase with no signs of slowing down. Even those who made it through college experience a tremendous amount of stress in job seeking and trying to pay off college loans. In addition, according to US News and World Report the number of college graduates working minimum has double in the past 5 years. There seems to be a trend of a downward spiral, which may have a traumatic effect on American youngsters’ psychological health.
On a positive note, we still have time to make a change. We can still change the system to avoid the downward spiral. Many studies have shown that Scandinavian countries of the happiest countries in the globe. While a big portion of the income is taxed, these countries in general receive better access to education and healthcare. We need to advocate for the US to implement a better tax system modeled after Scandinavian countries that makes education and other social security welfare accessible to all.