Who’s To Blame For the Rising Student Debt?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average cost of attending a public four-year college or university has increased by $1,700 between 2008 and 2012. That may not seem like a lot, but where the total price is right now, students are looking at an average cost of $23,200 annually. Factor in scholarships and financial aid, and still, you’re looking at an average of $14,300 out of pocket, each year.

It should come as no surprise then that many students are having to resort to borrowing. With the average student debt rising above $1 trillion, people are turning heads, asking who’s to blame for the rising costs of higher education. In a survey done by the Harvard Institute of Politics, Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 29) ¬†were asked who they blamed for the mounting student debt. Out of the 2,089 surveyed, 42% blamed colleges and universities for this quandary.

So are our institutions of higher education solely to blame for this fiscal catastrophe? If we were to simply push more legislation, would it fix the problem? Even though the share of student loans nationwide have risen by 71%, some schools have students graduating with less than $12,000 in debt. Princeton University, for example, costs about $40,000 per year to enroll full time. But out of their pool of students, only 24% need to borrow loans, and many of those students graduate owing an average of only $5,096. Then what’s the problem?

In the same survey taken by Harvard, 30% of students blamed the federal government, 11% blamed students, 8% blamed state governments, 4% blamed other things, and 5% refused to even give an answer. So who’s really to blame?

How about all the above? College is an investment. There are good investments and there are bad ones. If you’ve done your homework and know that your financial decision will make you more money in the long run, despite all the risks, then you’ve made a good investment. But go into investment with nothing more than a hunch, then such an investment could be a disastrous one. With a $1 trillion student debt that’s still growing, the problem no longer is the cause of an one particular entity, but the mindset of our culture. Instead of viewing college as an investment, we now see it as a privilege, a responsibility even. A mindset that can really only end in disaster.