America has a serious problem.
In fact there are many problems, but few could prove as devastating as the crisis facing our higher education system. With tuition costs skyrocketing, students today face crippling loan debt to fund an education that's increasingly necessary to compete in a recovering job market. Not to mention they're rarely free from paying it off, even in case of bankruptcy.
This might not be so depressing if our counterparts across the pond weren't already putting us to shame. Take the Nordic countries, which have chosen to invest in their students in ways the U.S. could only dream of:
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That about nails it: The differences prove even more troubling when you consider how our government allocates funds instead. Public higher ed institutions collected $62.6 billion in tuition fees in 2012. That's in contrast to the $85.4 billion we stand to spend in Afghanistan for fiscal year 2015:
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With the U.S. government already doling out over $250 billion in federal aid, those Afghanistan dollars could literally cover the rest of America's public tuition fees for a fraction of the cost, and then some:
Image Credit: The Atlantic
And with average student loan debt clocking in around $29,400 per student, that reallocation could go a long way toward building a more stable financial future for subsequent generations.
So why won't we do it? Because #Amurica: Instead, we're dropping $41.3 billion on the War on Drugs, $80 billion on prisons and $27 billion a year over 55 years on the F-35 fighter jet program, one of the most expensive such projects in history.
And that's just a few examples. Such "misplaced priorities" also add to a troubling and predatory relationship between students and private lenders, the latter of whom often force loans into default if a student's co-signer (usually a parent) dies or goes into bankruptcy. The result is an entire generation of graduates with ruined credit ratings and a consequent inability to purchase a home, rent an apartment or start a business — all prior staples of the so-called American Dream.
So the question is, has this dream officially died? It's debatable whether it actually existed to begin with, but one thing is certain: If changes aren't implemented soon, we face a financial future that all but the wealthiest among us are ill equipped to weather.
And that's bad news for America.