Paying Back, Not Giving Back

Paying Back, Not Giving Back

Student Debt's Negative Impact on Public Service Career Opportunities

In the past decade, government support for higher education has declined; as a result, tuition and fees have increased. Grants have failed to keep pace. As costs continue to swell, students are taking on more and more debt to pay for their degrees. Two-thirds of all four-year college graduates in 2004 left school with student debt, compared with less than one-third in 1993.

Recent graduates, especially those with low and moderate incomes, must spend the vast majority of their salaries on necessities such as rent, health care, and food. For borrowers struggling to cover basic costs, student loan repayment can create a significant and measurable impact on their lives.

This report looks at the issue of unmanageable debt as it pertains to college graduates entering two critical public service careers: teaching and social work. Given increasing dependence on student loans, borrowers graduating from four-year schools and working in these two public service careers often carry more debt than they can manage. The prospect of burdensome debt likely deters skilled and dedicated college graduates from entering and staying in important careers educating our nation's children and helping the country's most vulnerable populations.

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Project on Student Debt Web site or visit the The Project on Student Debt on PewHealth.org.

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