Bright lights, big city, even bigger debt.
New York is the city the never sleeps — because worry over student loans is keeping people awake at night.
The numbers are stark and shocking. Three out of five New York college graduates are saddled with debt when they finish school, according to a 2018 study by the Rockefeller Institute of Government.
The statewide average at graduation is more than $30,000, study shows.
Students from New York University and other New York City-area colleges said graduating with crippling debt is accepted as a fact of life.
“It’s something everyone joked about at our college tours before we even enrolled here,” said Sara Lopez, an undergrad economics major at NYU, whose parents are helping her pay annual tuition of nearly $52,000.
“It’s ridiculous how expensive it is,” said Lopez. “It’s definitely something people are worried about.”
The worry extends beyond NYU.
Rutgers student Amy Song, of Princeton, New Jersey, said she’s concerned about the loan she’ll take on in graduate school.
Song will be going to medical school at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in the fall, where in-state tuition is more than $40,000.
“I’m preparing to be in a lot of debt,” Song said.
The reality of making ends meet while paying off student loans wasn’t a thought for the children of super-wealthy parents who bought slots for their kids at elite colleges.
A federal probe uncovered wide-ranging corruption and resulted in a number of arrests and indictments among the rich and powerful, with aftershocks continuing to rock the secretive world of university admissions.
But for everyday college students paying for their education can be a struggle.
The state of New York saw its total student loan debt increase by 89% from 2008 to 2018, growing from $47.2 to $89.3 billion, according to a 2019 study by California-based Experian Consumer Service.
During that same time period, New York City’s student loan debt increased faster, rising from $4.4 billion to $8.92 billion – a 105% change, according to the study.
That put New York City in first place for highest student loan debt in the country, the report said.
Nationwide, student loans represent the second largest debt for Americans, trailing behind mortgage loans and Americans carry, on average, $22,600 per person in student loan debt, the study said.
The financial pressure can have a significant impact on borrowers’ lives.
Elizabeth Bender, a defense attorney with the Legal Aid Society of New York, explained that she’s putting off starting a family until her ballooning loans from Fordham Law School are resolved.
Bender said because of compound interest, her loans are nearly twice as high as they were when she graduated from law school in 2011 – even though she’s been making payments every month.
“It affects future financial plans,” said Bender, 35, who lives in Manhattan with her husband. “Things like buying a house or having kids.”
“Sometimes the interest charges dramatically, without any notification,” she said. “It makes me miserable.”
Gov. Cuomo is pushing new rules to reign in abuses by for-profit colleges as part of the state budget due in June.
The Excelsior Scholarship for students from families earning less than $125,000 covers the relatively affordable tuition at City University of New York and the State University of New York.
And Queens state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D) is sponsoring legislation to forgive all student debt.
Kim has researched the issue and warned that consequences could be severe if lawmakers don’t act.