No one is a stranger to student loan debt in the United States, and you likely see the phrase more times than you can remember if you are a student in college. Indeed, with a swelling $1.4 trillion in debt that increased by $83 billion last year and a tuition rate increasing by approximately 3% annually, it’s become one of the nation’s biggest problems.
There are numerous suggestions for dealing with this problem, but none to ideally handle the issue in whole. From total loan forgiveness to better repayment options, one can imagine the struggles of both graduates and the Federal government to work out an ideal answer.
Some solutions do exist, however. One solution is choosing a major that is worth the investment. STEM and its related fields are certainly an option. These high skill jobs are solid majors that can make student loans manageable down the road, but, the skill gap – especially for degrees related to STEM – is widening. Because of this, regardless of the earning potential for work related to STEM, repaying loans becomes that much harder as students opt out for different majors.
Even though there are roughly 1.3 million new job openings annually for work related to STEM. Only about 600,000 new graduates fill these ranks which exacerbates the already volatile national issue. Some suggest there’s a way to not only improve the degree of graduates, but handle finances better. The solution: funnel more loans into those studying degrees in scientific or engineering fields.
The idea is to create both incentive and offer better financial resources towards degree types that foster economic growth. Those in favor of the idea feel it is a better investment of both taxpayer dollars and Department of Education resources.
This approach might prove efficient as the student body is not homogeneous. Not all degree types offer the same level of potential revenue, and many graduates still default or fall behind on their loans because of low earning power. Without considering potential long term risk, some lenders are ignoring how varied earning potentials for different jobs can actually be.
Increasing funds for STEM-backed degrees is only a concept for now, but there are certainly a few potential drawbacks. For starters, it favors one degree type over another, making for an obvious bias. However, the pressure of increasing higher education costs is rapidly growing, so maybe a radical solution such as this isn’t out of the question.
As far as current solutions, there are only a handful of current and future prospects. Though students have flexible repayment options, only a certain amount are repaying their loans annually. Additionally, some suggestions to forgive loans have been met with resistance, as the estimate would be in billions and the cost would ultimately shift towards taxpayers. Other solutions have come from employers offering bonuses to their workers, offering to pay for employee loan debt up to a certain amount. Some private companies have tried offering ways to refinance student loans, but eligibility criteria cuts out a large portion of struggling borrowers.
Whether or not the proposals for STEM degrees make headway remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a start in a long list of potential answers to the big question: how will the United States deal with student loan debt and higher education costs?