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Health study reveals true cost of higher education

Student loan debt is so familiar to many students it’s practically seen as inherent to the college experience, and a new study reaffirmed just how much students really pay. 

According to the Project on Student Loan Debt, nearly 70 percent of graduates from public and nonprofit colleges had an average debt of $28,400 in 2013. 

However, student debt is not just a financial problem.   

As reported in a recent article in The Atlantic, student loans can harm graduates’ well-being as much as their wallets, as a University of South Carolina study proposed that student loan debt can strain mental health. The article also referenced a 2013 study from Northwestern University that related student debt to higher blood pressure and depression. 

While these effects are somewhat unsurprising, especially when the class of 2014 has been dubbed the “most indebted class ever” by the Wall Street Journal, they again show the sacrifices many students are expected to make in order be more employable. 

The sacrifice associated with student loans isn’t a new concept, either. For instance, as a strategy to pay off student loan debt at a faster pace, a USA Today article reported that some graduates pay double or triple the minimum monthly balance of their loans, while others put all of their money toward loans. 

For students currently in college, accumulating debt could lead to feelings of guilt with any extra spending they do. 

If having a degree is worth the financial stress many students face because of student loan debt, then the mental and physical risks could also become part of the package of earning a degree. While having a degree means higher earnings, health sacrifices such as serious psychological stress or the risk of stroke, as mentioned in The Atlantic, shouldn’t have to be part of the deal. 

In Florida alone, 53 percent of students at public and nonprofit four-year schools graduate in debt, with the average debt being $24,017, according to the 2013 report by the Project on Student Loan Debt. For USF Tampa graduates, the number rises to 59 percent of graduates in debt. 

Of course, there can’t be just one solution to this multi-faceted problem, as several factors go into the mounting debt students recognize today.

For instance, as addressed in the Wall Street Journal, the average student loan debt has risen by 35 percent with inflation, and the median salary has decreased by 2.2 percent between 2005 and 2012, a problem which can make it even harder for students to manage loans. 

Additionally, The Atlantic reported that the University of South Carolina study found the price of college in the country has risen by 250 percent in the past 30 years with inflation. So, it’s no surprise that student loan debt became such a widespread issue.   

Initiatives such as President Barack Obama’s free community college plan for lower-income students will help lower the cost of college. However, this plan can, by its purpose, only go so far to protect students from rising tuition costs.

For now, unfortunately, many students and graduates are left to wonder how much they are expected to withstand to earn a degree.

Isabelle Cavazos is a junior majoring in English and Spanish.