Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment. Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.
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Host: Scott LaMar
At college campuses across Pennsylvania this spring, graduates grab their diplomas, pray for gainful employment and fret over repaying their student loans. The U.S. college-loan debt numbers are staggering, exceeding the totals for auto loans and credit cards. Have a question about shrinking your student-loan debt? Call 1-800-729-7532 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and join the conversation Thursday night at 8 on Smart Talk.
The price of a four-year degree at many private colleges now approaches or exceeds $200,000 and costs at public universities are rising as states slash support amid tight budgets. To pay for tuition, room and board, textbooks and supplies, more students are taking out loans and financing their way to a bachelor's degree. The interest rate on federally subsidized student loans is set to double this summer from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent unless Congress acts. The U.S. House voted last week to freeze the rate but the plan does so by dipping into a preventive health fund created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. President Obama wants the freeze on interest rates but not that funding mechanism, and threatens a veto.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about 15 percent of Americans have outstanding student-loan debt. That's 37 million people who owe a total of about $870 billion. People under age 30 hold two-thirds of the debt. If the interest rates double on July 1, it would affect more than 7 million students and cost them an average $1,000 more. President Obama calls it a "tax hike" for poor and middle-income students and their families. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney agrees but hasn't settled on a way to fund the extension.
And then there are the bleak facts about post-college job prospects. One in two college graduates is jobless or underemployed. The weak labor market makes it tough to find work that matches their skills and makes it difficult for them to pay back those hefty loans. Young people with bachelor's degrees are stuck in lower-wage jobs. Demand is still strong for graduates in the STEM fields (science, technology engineering and math), as well as health care. But it's slow going for those with degrees in the arts and humanities. Some have dubbed these twenty-somethings the Limbo Generation.
What is clear is that the crucial decisions young adults make now about higher education – the school they attend, the field they choose to study, and the financing options they select – have long-term financial ramifications. Our expert panel will share insights on college financial aid and loan issues, and the obstacles and opportunities that await graduates in the job market. Among our guests are Peter Van Buskirk, founder of The Admissions Game, a company that helps parents and students navigate the college-admissions process, Varo Duffins, associate director of financial aid at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, and Sheila Mitchell, certified credit counselor at Advantage Credit Counseling Services. Be sure to join the conversation on Smart Talk, Thursday at 8 PM.
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