As we recently discussed on the show, student loan debt in the United States has increased significantly over the past decade, jumping from $600 billion in 2008 to over $1.5 trillion USD today. Several Democratic presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have proposed student loan debt cancellation or free college as a major issue in their platforms.
But how did we get here? Why is getting a college degree so expensive—and what effect is that having on students, borrowers, and the economy? Guest host Nina Kravinsky spends the hour getting to the bottom of these questions.
First, she talks with professor Nicholas Hillman, an expert in higher education finance and a faculty affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE), to get a full picture of the cost of attendance, the generational divide when it comes to college, proposed solutions at the university and federal levels, and the importance of higher education for aspiring students.
In the second segment, we hear from Pablo Montes, a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin and former president of the Working Class Student Union at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He describes the particular challenges of working-class and first-generation students, including housing and food precarity, dispels the popular myth that parents can always offer financial support to students, and clarifies how financial stress prevents students from focusing on academics—or even graduating at all.