Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton today will roll out a proposal for a ten-year, $350 billion plan called “New College Compact” intended to curb the United States’ growing student debt problem.
The plan would include about $175 billion in grants to cover tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. But to receive the money, states would have to stop cutting higher education budgets and come up with plans to slow tuition growth.
Student debt is a growing problem all over our country and the Mountain State is no exception, as West Virginia Focus reporter Pam Kasey pointed out in our latest issue. Pam’s story introduced us to Dave and Stephanie Martin (not their real names) who spent a decade paying down Dave’s $60,000 in culinary school debt, making $650 monthly payments.
The couple had sent their payments in faithfully, in spite of getting no loan statements from the bank, rounding up a little from the minimum payment. “So when we called, we were sickened to find out it had gone up—to $74,000,” Stephanie says. “Like a credit card, the minimum payment will never pay it off.”
The couple ended up selling their home and moving in with Stephanie’s mom to pay off the debt. Devastating, right? Well—the Martins are not alone.
According to a new WalletHub survey released last week, of all 50 states and Washington, D.C., West Virginia ranks 9th worst state in student debt.
West Virginia has the largest number of borrowers who are past-due on payments or are in default, and the largest number of loans that are in past-due or default status.
We are 30th in average student debt, 43rd in the proportion of students with debt, and 31st in student debt as a percentage of income-adjusted by cost of living. West Virginia ranks 5th for our unemployment rate for people between 25 to 34.
This mounting problem of student debt has made controlling college costs an important talking point for presidential candidates. In addition to Clinton’s proposal, Democrat candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley of Maryland have also proposed fixes.
As the New York Times reports, Sanders has talked about a program that would take $47 billion from the federal budget and $23 billion from states to do away with public college tuition completely. “O’Malley has proposed his own debt-free plan, though a campaign spokeswoman said there was no cost estimate yet,” the Times wrote.