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Congratulations! You graduated! Now let's talk about your crazy student debt.

By now, you’ve probably heard about our nations’ skyrocketing education costs, and the increasingly burdensome student debts that hold many college graduates—particularly students of color—back.

But what does that really mean, and how did we get ourselves into this vicious cycle?

There are a few reasons why college tuition has gone up: trends in private donations, and government funding for higher ed, to name just a few. But one major factor in increased tuition is the fact that college is no longer seen as a possible destination after high school, but an inevitable one—an inescapable next step, whether due to societal, familial, and job-market pressures. This means that as demand for college education rises, so does the cost of enrollment.

So if it costs more money to go to college than ever before, don’t things like student loans help? Well, yes and no.

Because student loans are by definition something people pay off in the future, colleges and universities can raise their tuition costs, without someone with student loans feeling much of a difference while it’s actually happening. But at some point, a person who has taken out loans is going to have to pay, and pay more than ever.

Is there a solution? That’s complicated. Some people want to see the student loan process reformed. Others, like Senator Bernie Sanders, want to see college made entirely free for students. But neither of these plans necessarily address actually lowering the amount of money it costs—just who’s going to pay it, and when.

But something is going to have to change. Or else college risks becoming too expensive, too soon.

Congratulations! You graduated! Now let's talk about your crazy student debt.

By now, you’ve probably heard about our nations’ skyrocketing education costs, and the increasingly burdensome student debts that hold many college graduates—particularly students of color—back.

But what does that really mean, and how did we get ourselves into this vicious cycle?

There are a few reasons why college tuition has gone up: trends in private donations, and government funding for higher ed, to name just a few. But one major factor in increased tuition is the fact that college is no longer seen as a possible destination after high school, but an inevitable one—an inescapable next step, whether due to societal, familial, and job-market pressures. This means that as demand for college education rises, so does the cost of enrollment.

So if it costs more money to go to college than ever before, don’t things like student loans help? Well, yes and no.

Because student loans are by definition something people pay off in the future, colleges and universities can raise their tuition costs, without someone with student loans feeling much of a difference while it’s actually happening. But at some point, a person who has taken out loans is going to have to pay, and pay more than ever.

Is there a solution? That’s complicated. Some people want to see the student loan process reformed. Others, like Senator Bernie Sanders, want to see college made entirely free for students. But neither of these plans necessarily address actually lowering the amount of money it costs—just who’s going to pay it, and when.

But something is going to have to change. Or else college risks becoming too expensive, too soon.

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