Can Student Debt Unite Young Democrats and Republicans?



If you’re a recent college graduate, odds are you are stumbling into the most financially insecure years of your life with truckload of debt in tow. A recent survey of millennials conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics shows that 58 percent of college graduates (currently aged 18 to 29) have student debt. A separate report from the College Board puts the average student debt burden at $27,000.

To many college graduates, this is an impossibly large amount of debt to manage. Graduates, who borrowed against their future earnings on the expectation that they would be able to find well-paying job once they completed school, have found themselves faced with an enormously difficult job market. Just 63 percent of millennials held jobs in 2012, down from 70 percent in 2007.

What’s more, their debt makes it hard to save for retirement, access additional credit to buy a car, enjoy a decent standard of living, or even make rent. A near-record number of millennials are still living at home — 36 percent of those aged between 18 and 31.

The only good news out of this whole mess is that the situation may be so dismal that it may be the common enemy that unites otherwise politically disparate young Americans. According to the Harvard survey, 57 percent of all millennials feel that student debt is a “major problem” for young people in the U.S.┬áBy political party, 62 percent of Democrats view it as a major problem, 57 percent of Republicans, and 55 percent of Independents.

Millennials also appear to be fairly united behind who they blame for the problem: the colleges and universities themselves. According to Harvard, 42 percent of millennials blame colleges and universities for the problem, while 30 percent blame the government, and 8 percent blame state government.

In an interesting twist, Harvard also finds that 11 percent of millennials placed the blame for the problem on the students themselves. The reasoning for this may be that student debt can’t be a problem if the student doesn’t borrow in the first place. While this is true, if it wasn’t student debt that was the growing crisis among millennials, it would be a lack of education.

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