A quite crisis has crept across our nation, almost obsequies by its nature. The mounting debt of student loans is as serious as the 2007 housing crisis; except that, instead of losing a home, our college students are losing an opportunity to begin a family and career without being burdened by a lifetime of debt. While our national debt now approaches $22 trillion, student personal loan debt exceeds $1.5 trillion.
Today’s college students face the challenges of exorbitant tuition in a state where the Constitution mandates that college education will be "as nearly free as possible." Add to tuition a mountain of fees and expensive textbooks. In 2018, the average Arizona student loan debt for a BA graduate was $23,913 with 56 percent of Arizona students in debt.
To make ends meet, many students spend hours working low-paying jobs instead of studying for a career, often skimp on meals, and experience high stress levels. To add to the stress, the Republican-led state legislature and Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce are proposing decreasing pay for student workers. (Daily Sun, Jan. 29)
I get that businesses need to hire quality workers and make a profit. I also believe that all workers should be paid a fair wage and learn new skills that benefit both the employer and employee. There is no reason that students should be paid less than minimum wage.
Meanwhile, the State is running a surplus budget but failing to provide adequate money for education, while the uber-rich get reduced taxes enabling even more egregious campaign contributions to politically indebted legislators. Meanwhile, veteran students may get-by on GI benefits while students from diverse ethnic backgrounds are subjected to predatory lending by financial scam-artists.
This entire process is institutionalizing educational poverty characterized by the loss of critical thinking and rigor in a world where other countries are investing in education, future technologies and greater economic and social equality. Under the “Banner of the Republicans”, we are still following Sen. Harry Byrd’s (Va.-R, deceased) attempt to trap non-white and impoverished citizens with poor education in low-paying careers that divert their time from addressing the challenges we as national and planetary citizens now face.
Write the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce (101 W Rte. 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86001) and tell them to support students rather than incarcerate them in financial handcuffs.