It is often said that Americans’ trillion-and-a-half-dollar student-loan debt is a “crisis.” It is not. As Beth Akers of the Manhattan Institute has noted, the typical four-year college graduate who borrowed starts with a debt of $28,500, which he can eliminate with 20 years of $181 monthly payments. By way of comparison, bachelor’s-degree holders outearn high-school grads by something like a million dollars over the course of their lives. College costs too much, but not so much that we need to feel sorry for the most educated people in our society.
What about those with far higher burdens? These large sums normally come from graduate studies, not four-year degrees, and are disproportionately possessed by folks with relatively high incomes, including doctors and lawyers. Higher undergraduate debt is also often the result of a deliberate choice to attend expensive private colleges rather than more affordable public ones, and to turn down avenues such as military service that can pay for college. Moreover, many students from truly modest means are already given significant grant aid. On top of that, the problem of truly unmanageable debt has already been addressed — and at the expense of federal taxpayers.