The 94 Percent

This weekend the New York Times published an article by Andrew Martin and Andrew Lehren about the incredible growth of student debt in America.

There wasn’t a whole lot of new information in the piece; student debt is pretty familiar to all Americans by now. There was one paragraph that really stood out to me, however. Martin and Lehren write:

Ninety-four percent of students who earn a bachelor’s degree borrow to pay for higher education — up from 45 percent in 1993, according to an analysis by The New York Times of the latest data from the Department of Education. This includes loans from the federal government, private lenders and relatives.

The large numbers about student debt (the average student now leaves with about $25,000 worth of debt, for instance) are often difficult to understand since the information includes so many thousands of different types of students.

But this one is easy: 94 percent of all college graduates take out loans. Almost all of them. In 1993, about 20 years ago, only half had to take out loans.

Why? Well there are several reasons for this. One of the most important, however, is that, according to the authors “state and local spending per college student, adjusted for inflation, reached a 25-year low this year.”

That’s the direction of this country’s higher education system. We’re now encouraging, even demanding, that more and more Americans go to college, but we’re making these people pay for it themselves, with loans.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer