■ Mark Sarll Jr. / Contributed
If unemployment, broken families, and crime aren’t problematic enough, student debt is. It’s a trillion-dollar problem nationwide. Young people often take out loans they can’t afford to pay back with interest in the hope that they will obtain the skills for a successful career.
While the ambition is noble, the guaranteed outcome of a great job can be shockingly uncertain. The 2008 global recession worsened such prospects. The issue has got to the point that a game show called “Paid Off” was created to shine a light on the “debt cycle” while retaining a comic flair. It’s “Jeopardy!,” but relevant to millennials.
While the efforts of the program are noble, it’s strange that the game show’s producers can’t send off the winnings to the lender/servicing agency or university, they have to go directly to the contestants. Rumor has it the lenders didn’t want the earnings because they secretly want the students to keep paying on the interest and debt – for life!
In cities like Hemet and San Jacinto, where economic opportunities are tight, homelessness is rampant, and housing is scarce, citizens with student debt have a lot to lose. Hope may be noble, but it’s not realistic. Even winning at a “student debt” game show will not remove much of the public from the cycle of debt. People still will have mortgages or rent, credit cards, fixed phone and utility contracts, and, if you’re from the U.S.A., India, China, or South Africa – medical bills. A minimum wage position at a supermarket will not solve your problem; you’ll be climbing up the ladder-of-success for a very long time.
For California’s economy to succeed, the policies on student loans and education funding will need to change. Tuition needs to be very low or free and emphasize a career-focused, online curriculum. Also, let’s decrease the need to have room-and-board. And can we emphasize big-time NCAA sports events? They help lower expenses. Eventually, California and the rest of the U.S. may rank as high as, say, Belgium or Finland.