For young adults, higher education is one of the best pathways to gaining skills, getting on track to start a career, and ultimately achieving financial security. But reaching this goal is far too difficult for too many students. Skyrocketing college costs present one major barrier. Since the Recession, tuition and fees at both 4-year and 2-year institutions have risen 28 percent, making it increasingly difficult for our generation to access and afford a degree. Once enrolled in a program, however, others barriers arise. Students today have a diverse array of needs that colleges often fail to meet. For example, many students are older, the vast majority must work, and more than a quarter are parents. Unfortunately just six in ten students graduate from bachelor’s degree programs within 6 years, with far lower rates at community colleges.
Students who borrow but do not complete their degrees are the most likely to default on their loans and experience economic distress. Today, over 40 million federal student loan borrowers manage over $1.3 trillion in debt, many of them without degrees that help pay back loans. These disparities are even more stark for young people of color, who face some of the greatest challenges to higher education access, affordability, attainment, and debt repayment – all issues that exacerbate long-term racial disparities in employment and wealth building. As the most diverse generation in American history, our future depends on an affordable, effective, and equitable higher education system.
Check out our higher education materials below.