The idea that higher education is an essential pathway to economic security, regardless of how much it costs, has been cemented into the public’s mind. We’ve been told that people need more education and that investment in higher education will pay off. Every day, individuals and families make decisions based on these beliefs. But the reality is far different.
With skyrocketing tuition costs, unaffordable student loan debt, predatory for-profit colleges, and degrees that do not deliver better jobs and higher earnings, it’s clear that our higher education system is failing too many. Students of color and low-income students are hardest hit. One example: Black graduates with a bachelor’s degree on average have $7,400 more in student debt than white graduates—a gap that grows to $25,000 five years later.
We are trapped in a vicious cycle. Industry insiders are reaping billions in profits at the expense of not just students but our nation’s collective economic future as families spend more and more of their income on paying off loans rather than on the goods and services they actually need. At the same time, progressive policymakers and advocates fight desperately but receive far less than what’s needed to fund public higher education.
Roosevelt, however, believes in the promise of higher education: a system that is accessible and affordable to all. To get there, it’s time for bold new ideas—from student debt cancellation to debt-free college—that can deliver on this promise.