The rising costs of obtaining a higher education degree are more burdensome than ever. Minnesota now has the fourth highest average higher education debt in the country at a whopping $29,058 per student, according to an annual report by the Project on Student Debt. We now have a crisis on our hands, and we need a solution.
While it is easy to regard these statistics as simply numbers on a page, student debt affects each of us in the community in a different way. I chose to attend Macalester because of its academic excellence and its emphasis on civic engagement, but that decision came at a price. When I graduate, I will owe approximately $20,000 dollars in student debt (plus a 3.9% interest rate), both federal and private, with my parents owing about $60,000. Paying that off will be no easy task in a depressed job market, meaning I probably will be riddled with student debt for years after I graduate. I believe that my parents and I will be able to pay off our debt eventually. However, that is largely due to their upper-middle income jobs, a luxury that most members of the community simply do not have.
Fortunately, something is being done. MPIRG is working to pass a groundbreaking piece of legislation called Opportunity Minnesota. This initiative would reimburse recent Minnesota graduates for their loan debt payments, eliminating a severe financial burden while encouraging economic growth in Minnesota. The concept is basic: if you graduate from a Minnesota higher education institution and stay and work in the state, you are eligible for debt relief. The bill even applies to Minnesota college alumni who choose to leave the state, but return at a later point.
Personally, I believe this is a fantastic piece of legislation because it reduces the heavy financial burden that I will face after I graduate. It also helps Minnesota’s economy by incentivizing college graduates, who in the long term earn more than anyone else over the course of their careers, to stay here and work. While I had previously thought that I would almost certainly return to my home state of New York after graduating, I now have an extremely compelling reason to stay in Minnesota and boost the economy. A similar bill has already passed in Maine, where formerly debt-crippled students are beginning to be able to manage their debt.
So, I, as an individual and as a member of the community, urge the legislators at the state capital to pass Opportunity MN to help their students, their economy, and the progress towards a more prosperous Minnesota.