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How You Can Help Solve the Student Loan Crisis

For recent college graduates, the knowledge, skills and relationships formed during their school years will equip them for years to come. Yet, for millions of these graduates, their higher education journey will also come with another post-graduation reality: student loan debt. And for some, that debt exponentially increases into a full-fledged crisis.

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It’s a reality faced by more than 40 million Americans — former and current students who see the many benefits of going to college, but whose student loan debt is a reflection of the skyrocketing cost of that degree.

Fortunately, there are organizations and individuals who continue to devote their efforts to lessening the student loan debt crisis. The problem is nationwide, but so is the solution. Here’s how you can help.

Know the crisis. The U.S. has surpassed the $1.2 trillion mark in student loan debt, and that mountain keeps on growing. Just this week, Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, remarked how much this historic cliff affects students:

“For generations, the viewpoint deeply ingrained in the fabric of our country has held that if you work hard, study well, and act responsibly, you can get ahead in life. Going to college has been a key milestone on the path to opportunity, and almost certainly is more important today than it has ever been. But in recent years, many families were hit hard by the financial crisis and had to take on more debt to pay for college. For many young graduates, high levels of student loan debt limit their choices about careers and the communities where they live, and may undermine their well-being.”

Gallup confirms the detrimental effects of this debt. Last month, the organization released a report that found college grads with a high amount of student debt were affected more than just financially — they experienced a lower sense of well-being, including physical health and community participation.

The findings are clear: we can’t afford to ignore an issue that will affect the health of future generations. Staying abreast about what’s happening nationally will help inform your own efforts in addressing the crisis.

Get involved. Student loan debt is a far-reaching issue that doesn’t only affect young graduates. The New York Times was one of several media outlets that recently reported on the burden of student loan debt – for senior citizens. “I incurred this debt to improve my life,” one interviewee said, “but the debt has become my undoing.”

It’s no surprise, then, that spurring on conversations about the crisis will help students of all ages in your own community. Families making informed decisions about how much they can afford to borrow, for example, can make the difference in students borrowing or taking on a part-time job to help cover tuition.

Going further than knowing is doing, which is where your advocacy efforts can also make a difference. As an example, Scholarship America has partnered with Higher Ed, Not Debt, a multi-year campaign dedicated to tackling the student loan debt crisis. The campaign site lists several action items individuals can take, including writing a letter to your local editor about the crisis.

Contribute to scholarships. If thinking about the large-scale issue of student loan debt seems too overwhelming, remember that the biggest differences can come right from your community. Scholarship America Dollars for Scholars affiliates do this every day. By providing scholarships and educational assistance locally, Dollars for Scholars assures that the community supports its own students.

Think about the people that have helped you achieve what you have today. Think also about how powerful their support of your education — financially or psychologically — was for your future. Consider how you could make that a reality for someone else. No matter the amount, a scholarship award is a tangible, life-changing contribution. And, more scholarship aid could mean less reliance on student loans — and less loan debt.

Together, we can work to solve the student loan debt crisis.

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photo credit: The.Comedian via photopin cc