Young Activists United-St. Louis held a conference to address the very relevant topic of student debt this past weekend.
It's no secret that tuition hikes, limited financial aid packages and decreased funding of higher education make a college education an inaccessible burden for low-income people in St. Louis. Many spend most of their lives trying to pay back student loans or risk having their wages garnished should they fall into default.
The group discussed some startling numbers around student debt:
· Number of Americans with debt: 37 million
· Average student debt, nationwide: $25,250
· Average student debt in Missouri: $22,601
· 65% of Missouri students have student debt
They also delved into several ways to alleviate the overwhelming student debt burden many in the community feel. These included: capping tuition hikes, increasing need-based aid at educational institutions, increased financial literacy, expanding loan forgiveness programs, and more.
Around 50 students, workers and community leaders were in attendance. YSTL plans to follow up with attendees to create an action plan to address the student debt issue. To that end, Alice Floros of YSTL said,
"Young Activists United-St. Louis's Student Debt Conference drew almost fifty people engaging in deep conversation and plans for concrete action. We are excited to move forward with this energy toward making higher education more accessible with better outcomes for all."
The conference drew students from all over the state, not just the St. Louis area. Elyse Vessel, a student at the University of Missouri - Columbia said, "I'm excited to use the knowledge I gained to benefit those in the UM system and my peers at Mizzou."