Bigger forces amass grad student debt

Failed attempts at policy reform have led America to reach its tipping point. Too many ideas and too little time has caused the American people to solely rely on theory rather than applied practice, and millennials are set up to face the worst set of ramifications.

Last month, the Center for American Progress released a study that found 20 universities to be responsible for the a fifth of all graduate school debt — with USC listed as No. 5, with students having amassed $460 million in graduate student loan debt.

The exorbitant amount of borrowed money has contributed to the question many students, faculty, parents and bystanders have: Is USC irresponsible for steadily increasing tuition, and if so, why? But a deeper understanding of the interplay between federal and privatized loans and university tuition reveal a flawed system of increased demand and disproportionate tuition rates.

For hundreds of years, America has prided itself on the concept of the American Dream. But with constant partisan divide stopping the effective execution of plans, Americans are no longer reaping success after years of hard work and are becoming less incentivized to do more with the American Dream out of reach.

In the midst of the forthcoming presidential election, many candidates have promised policy reform for debt-free college programs by insinuating that Gen Y’ers will no longer be burdened by high college tuition. This is sadly false. In reality, doling out hollow promises for free education without feasible plans and with limited federal funding only allows the cycle of increased student debt to persist. And while this issue continues, millennials are precluded from fully contributing to American markets.

College debt came under fire last year when Andrew Rossi released the documentary Ivory Tower,  explaining the businesslike nature of colleges. Though nothing has changed since, recently released staff reports from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York can help explain why both colleges and students are so caught up in the never-ending cycle of rising tuition and higher student debt.

Over the past century, USC has steadily raised the cost of both undergraduate and graduate tuition, but much of the rhetoric behind this steady increase has to do with an interlinked relationship between higher tuition costs and increased loan demands.

As explained in the Federal Reserve reports, higher tuition costs increase loan demand, but loan supply also affects tuition costs. This is can be explained through the pass-through effect, in which colleges adjust to the economic circumstance by counteracting increased costs and the increased availability of loans by raising tuition.

“We find that institutions more exposed to changes in the subsidized federal loan program increased their tuition disproportionately around these policy changes, with a sizable pass-through effect on tuition of about 65 percent,” the June staff report stated.

The more readily available loans are, the more college will cost and the more likely institutions are to increase tuition disproportionately. The report identifies a positive correlation between higher tuition and available student credit. The study finds that though it appears student loans would benefit students, they actually are detrimental because they create a ripple effect in incentivizing colleges to raise tuition repeatedly. The study also explains that Pell Grants specifically seem to have driven tuition higher because Pell Grants don’t require as much payment as other loans.

The rhetoric and analytical data that the staff reports from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York may explain why students at USC and other colleges in the nation are struggling to pay tuition. The system is the law of supply and demand in reverse: Too much access to borrowed money equals higher tuition rates and less student enrollment.

It isn’t really colleges that are responsible or the greater availability of loans. It’s an overall flawed approach to gearing millennials toward better jobs. Colleges and USC should not falter in these failed cycles of increasing student tuition. In an effort to help the millennials and the economy, universities should consider decreasing tuition so students are not trapped in the cycle of borrowed debt.