Mark Kantrowitz claims that six-figure debt is a rarity, and says that journalists are sensationalizing the problem. While it might be true, based upon his findings, that there is not a huge percentage of people with that sort of student loan debt, the fact remains that we are in a full-blown crisis. Journalists and activists are not the only ones who acknowledge the crisis. Higher education policy analysts, politicians, and other experts recognize the problem. More importantly, those who are being crushed by their debt, and also realizing that their window of opportunity for financial security in the future is narrowing, know all too well that the crisis is worsening. Those stories matter.
Furthermore, there is no debate that the dramatic increase in default rates on student loans is worrisome. This is an obvious sign that people are failing to pay back their loans, and that more Americans are falling off the grid. For what reason? Pursuing higher education.
So, while Kantrowitz's findings might be accurate, it does not change that fact that we are still in a deep, long student lending crisis. It also doesn't change that fact that our leaders aren't doing anything substantial to change that fact. When it comes to leaders, we could use some more Browns and Harkins on the Hill.
I also take issue with Kantrowitz's claim that the stories are all sensationalized. Interestingly, a few months ago, he was quoted in a NYT article, and his tone was quite different. I was glad to read his comments in that piece, because it was the first time I heard him express public sympathy for borrowers. Now, I could be mistaken, perhaps he's done it in the past, but his remarks were notable.
What do you think about his findings?