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Student loans higher than credit card debt, crippling economy

President Obama said in a May speech that the burden of student loans that many young people face upon graduation is crippling our economy. Public university tuition and fees have doubled in the past couple of decades. The average college graduate owes over $26,000 in student loan debt, and with interest rates and today’s dismal employment options, it can take years or even decades for a Florida resident to pay off student loans.

For the first time in history, Americans owe more on student loans than credit card debt. At the end of last year, student loan debt was a staggering $966 billion, surpassed only by home mortgages.

Unlike student loans, home mortgages drive the economy forward. However, with so many college graduates already facing overwhelming debt, many of them are putting off buying their first homes or first cars. This is resulting in a sluggish housing market and a stagnating economy.

Since most student loans can’t be discharged through bankruptcy, getting out from under a mountain of debt can be challenging for students who didn’t expect to encounter financial challenges right after college. Unexpected unemployment or life changes can change the future even for those who landed a well-paying job right after graduating.

What does the future look like for graduates going into the real world with crippling student debt? Unlike past generations, millions of young people are unable to buy homes, cars, and other major purchases while they attempt to deal with their debt. Media attention, as well as the president’s, has focused on student loan debt a great deal lately, so it can be hoped that someday soon we’ll see some positive changes that can help struggling graduates get back on their feet--and help to contribute to economy growth.

Source: The Street, “Students Graduate Into Debt, Dragging Down Economy,” Brian O’Connell, June 4, 2013

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