“You can’t talk about student debt without talking about the Great Recession,” said Mark Huelsman, associate director of policy and research at Demos, a left-leaning think tank.
Wage stagnation meant families had less money to draw upon to pay for college, while recent graduates struggled to pay their debts. At the same time, states pulled back from funding their public universities, pushing up tuition costs. In addition, more people looked to attend or return to school to become more employable.
“All of these things led to student debt ballooning,” Huelsman said. “For the people who already had student debt, it became more of a crisis than it would have otherwise if we hadn’t gone through the Great Recession.”
The Americans who suffered most acutely from this dynamic are those who came of age politically over the past several years, Huelsman noted, and it only makes sense that they’d push the issue of student debt front and center.