The Low-Down on Higher Education Debt

Since 1980, the amount that states have invested in higher education has been on a steady downward slope. In the past three decades, only Wyoming and North Dakota have managed to increase the amount of their state budget that is dedicated to higher education.

The number of 25-year-olds with student debt increased to 43 percent between 2003 and 2012 – up from 25 percent. In fact, student debt is the only form of household debt still climbing after the recession. Credit cards, mortgages, and auto loans have all begun to return to traditional levels.

And, of course, the problem of excessive student debt isn’t just a problem for young people. Because student debt is not forgiven by bankruptcy, many families who were clobbered by the economic collapse are still struggling to pay down excessive higher education debt. On top of the egregious amounts of interest charged on already-outsized costs, the lack of living-wage jobs in Maine’s economy makes it that much more difficult to keep up with payments on student debt while also making ends meet.

MPA is beginning to work with partners across the country to tackle challenges posed by the high cost of higher education. This legislative session, MPA supported efforts modeled on Oregon’s “Pay It Forward” bill to keep the cost of higher education affordable, and will continue to push legislators at the state and federal level to take on this issue in a way that increases college affordability and helps pay down existing debt in a fair fashion. Stay tuned for more ways to get involved!