We need leadership on post-grad difficulties

The Obamas failed to address student debt and post-graduation employment issues.

Ronald Dixon

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke  at a higher education summit last week on inequalities and opportunities for low-income students. Speaking from their own backgrounds, the Obamas made a strong case for supporting disadvantaged students entering college.

The Obamas also discussed the need to help students graduate after they get accepted. Michelle Obama cited the University of Minnesota as an example of a school that supports and retains low-income students.

After watching the summit, I was disappointed I didn’t see leadership on the post-graduation problems plaguing millions of students.

The average student debt rate climbed to $29,400 in 2013, up from $26,600 in 2012, according to a Project on Student Debt report. It also found debt loads have been increasing by about 6 percent each year from 2008 to 2012. 

College debt causes recent grads to delay saving for retirement, buying homes or cars and getting married.

A Dartmouth College study found middle-income students actually end up with up to 60 percent more debt than their peers. Many students with moderate economic privilege do not qualify for some financial aid, which may force them to look to loans to fund their education.

Also, will debt-ridden students have the capacity to find employment after college? Although Obama said the economy is getting better, he did not discuss programs for post-college employment.

Even if graduates find a job, they are likely to not find the right job. Only half of recent graduates have a job that requires a degree. 

I suggest the president advocate for additional debt forgiveness initiatives and incentives for companies to hire recent graduates.

With these policies, more students would begin careers with less debt and/or more avenues to pay debt off.