Hasan Minhaj Highlights the Student Debt Crisis

Hasan Minhaj, a comedian and political commentator, recently brought light to the current student debt crisis in his Netflix show, “Patriot Act.” He discussed how the Department of Education and student-loan companies perpetuate the student debt crisis in America. He narrowed in on the popular student-loan company, Navient, and its role in manipulating students and taking advantage of their lack of knowledge.  The episode caught so much attention that he was invited to speak in front of Congress to further the dialogue about the cyclical issue of student debt. He stated, “Many borrowers are still treated like deadbeats because the government has put their financial futures in the hands of predatory, for-profit loan servicing companies. We have put up a paywall to the middle-class.” However, I don’t think it is just the government or student loan companies that are the problem. This issue is much more complex. 

Via RocketNews

In 2019, getting a decent job without a college degree is next to impossible. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, in the last 17 years, total undergraduate enrollment has increased by 27%. Higher education is no longer for the select few that are rich and smart enough, it is now normalized. In fact, it is often frowned upon if you don’t pursue higher education. The social pressure to attain a college degree is higher now than ever, forcing people to attend college even though they might not be able to afford it. While this means that the future generations will be more educated (which is fantastic), it gives more power to universities to toggle with tuition rates. Since college is no longer optional for those that want a decent salary, universities can hike up tuition prices and still not have a significant drop in admission rates. 

Via The Job Network

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Some students are lucky enough to have parents that save money their entire lives to send their kids to college. Others spend their lives paying off their student debts. Regardless, higher education is a massive financial burden on anyone that seeks to attain it. As Minhaj mentioned, we are putting a paywall to the middle class. Not every student can afford to invest the kind of prices the universities want and have to make ends meet in order to be considered “average.” 

Since more and more people are enrolling in college, it not only reduces the value of a college degree, it gives employers a plethora of options for new employees. This means they can afford to be more selective in who they hire. However, selectivity and higher standards work cruelly against college students. 

I earlier referred to this problem as a cyclical issue. Here’s why. Most college students I know work one or more jobs in order to pay their tuition. This can take a massive toll on one’s education because classes demand time, effort, and energy. Passing college classes isn’t easy and working becomes a massive obstacle between the student and a good GPA. If one doesn’t have a good GPA, employers don’t even consider them as a candidate for the job. Even if the GPA is strong enough, their resume must be eye-catching. They want to see extracurricular activities, leadership roles, internships and work experience, etc. If you can’t manage to attain all of these tasks, they’ll find someone else that can. 

As you may see, this is a vicious cycle. You work your butt off to pay for your education, but that hard work might be what costs you what you were working towards: a decent job. Not to mention, you cannot pay off these loans that you have taken out until you get work that pays enough. This process pushes the affluent forward and pulls the lower-income students backward. The affluent students are privileged enough to not have to work jobs while studying, take up unpaid internships, and take on leadership roles in organizations.  

Related: How to Pay Your Student Loans

While speaking to Congress, Minhaj stated that there are currently about 44 million Americans with student loan debt, who owe a combined total of $1.6 trillion. That number is only expected to increase as college becomes more and more of a requirement than an option. Something must be done to help students climb out of the debt hole that they were forced into. 

The rising power of higher education could be amazing for society. However, if going to college is now the norm, the tuition rates need to be accessible to the norm. While students go to college to make the odds in their favor, universities put the odds against them before they even arrive. This cannot keep on happening. This relates directly to us.  So, if we don’t speak up, who will? And if not now, then when? 

Student Loans | Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj | Netflix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0CyBv18A5k 

Hasan Minhaj Calls Out Congress Over Student Loans: ‘You Paid Far Less For Your Degrees’ | NBC News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfIDh2yGn_g