April 24, 2024

Student loan debt is difficult to avoid. Here’s how some did it

Last year saw failed attempts to forgive student loans en masse and a herky-jerky return to loan payments after a long hiatus. It was also a year that raised fresh questions about whether a college degree really pays off in the long run. 

Despite that, Americans are generally undeterred in their pursuit of higher education. The number of prospective college students creating Common App accounts to apply to schools in 2023 surged, including among those who would be the first in their families to go to college and students of color. A disproportionate share of the nation’s nearly $2 trillion in student loan debt is carried by women. Black women in particular owe an outsize sum.

Does it have to be this way? Is it possible to go to college without taking out student loans or find a well-paid job without a degree? USA TODAY spoke with college students, graduates and dropouts about getting the skills or degrees required to become professionals, without going into significant debt. Unless a student’s family can underwrite their education or secure a coveted scholarship that covers the growing price of a degree, it’s very difficult. 

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