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Reporting on student loan debt

July 22, 2021

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Student debt has been steadily increasing for the past decade. In 2007, the average student loan debt was $15,257. In 2020, this rose to $36,635. Now, the student holds an average of $37,693 in loans, according to educationdata.org. This is a common story for over 45.3 million people who in total borrowed over $1.6 trillion. This is more than credit card and auto loans, second only to mortgages.

Student loans weren’t always such a major part of education. In the past, the federal government was heavily involved in subsidizing loans. This involvement made college more accessible to those who come from a low-income background. However, the federal government has lowered funding for higher education. With these cuts, people looked to other sources for help. This led to unsubsidized loans becoming more prominent. According to Sallie Mae, a consumer banking company, unsubsidized loans are where “you are responsible for the interest from the moment the loan money is disbursed into your account.” This differs from subsidized loans where the bank or the government is paying the interest for you while you’re in school. Once out of school, you’ll be responsible for paying the original amount plus the accrued interest from the start of repayment.

A business reporter should be up to date on the issue of student loans. This issue affects over 19 million college students in the U.S. With student debt and student loans being in the spotlight, here are some resources and tips.

If you are looking for in-depth data and information, government sources as well as trustworthy, independent think-tanks can function as great input for this issue. The Pew Charitable Trusts as well as the National Center for Education Statistics are great sources for finding information related to education. Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, can also be a great tool when it comes to student loans. They have a whole section dedicated to understanding student loans.

Public universities and colleges also publicly post their tuition and fees on their website. For example, Arizona State University, a public university, has a section explaining the standard cost of attendance for the 2021-2022 school year. This is the same with public colleges. Glendale Community College also has a section outlining its tuition and fees. Looking up a school’s tuition as well as their payment plans for students can be invaluable to your story; it leads to a clearer picture.

Finally, talk to financial experts as well as students and their parents. Financial experts can offer their knowledge and answer any questions you may have pertaining to the story. However, just because an individual is labeled an expert does not mean take the statements for their face value. The claims must be fact checked as well as backed up by any trustworthy evidence. Furthermore, talk with students and parents. Having a personal account of the loan process makes the story more relatable and offers a juxtaposition to the experts. Data is one thing, a personal account is another.

Student loans and debt are becoming an ever more important part of society. However, that doesn’t mean that a business story must always be about statistics and financial data. There is always a personal counterpart that goes with the data. Having a good mix of both personal and objective accounts will open this topic to more people.

If you want a more in-depth look at student loans and topics related to the subject, please look at the infographic below. Sources are underlined.


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