Vote Higher: How to Talk About the Student Debt Crisis

Find the full messaging PDF here.

Today, 43 million Americans hold some sort of student debt, America holds $1.3 trillion in student loans, and the average student is graduating with nearly almost $30,000 in debt. Americans know this is a crisis—they’re experiencing it first-hand. Recent research shows that it’s the issues—not the candidates—that will inspire the youth vote. And the results are in: student debt is not just an issue for Millennials, it’s the issue.

When Millennials were asked what policies would be most likely to motivate them to get out and vote for a candidate, three of the top five policies they chose had to do with student debt and higher education. Millennials want their elected officials to address the rising costs of college, throw a lifeline to borrowers struggling with debt, and address an economy that continues to leave many young Americans behind. Still, one in three Millennials don’t feel as though candidates are talking enough about the issues that matter to them. To fill that gap, we’re giving you the facts, foundation, and framing proven to connect with Millennials on student debt—let’s get to work.

Fast Facts:

  • The student debt burden surpasses both credit card and auto debt in this country, and is the only type of debt that has increased since the Great Recession
  • Student debt originated in state disinvestment in higher education, passing the costs onto students
  • Over the past 30 years, all but two states have pulled money out of their public higher education system
  • The cost of college is rising: the price tag for tuition has risen 1100% in the last 30 years
  • For-profit colleges are a big part of the problem:
    • 47% of students who have defaulted on their loans went to for-profit colleges
    • For-profit colleges only enroll 10% of all students, but receive 25% of federal financial aid dollars and account for almost half of all student loan defaults

Talking Points:

  • The Problem: The student debt crisis is a dead weight on the American economy. Student debt is keeping American students, families from getting ahead. College costs have spiraled, forcing more students and parents to borrow and leaving less and less money for families to put towards buying a house or saving for retirement.
  • The Solution: Addressing the student debt crisis will jumpstart the American economy and expand opportunities exponentially for young Americans. Helping borrowers currently struggling with debt, and ensuring that future students can graduate debt-free, is the single best investment in our country’s future we can make.
  • The Framing: Affordable higher education isn’t a radical idea.  Thirty years ago college costs were low and Pell grants, coupled with a summer job, could allow students to graduate debt free. Our parents were able to go to college without taking on crushing debt, we are asking for the same fair shot.  We need to make higher education a public good again.

Read the rest of our toolkit for constituency-specific messaging, and a point-by-point rebuttal against the major myths on student debt today.

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