COLORADO SPRINGS — Student loans are a problem weighing down a significant portion of the population, and economists warn that could pose a risk for the workforce in the future.

PhD economist Tatiana Bailey believes student loans are further impinging the training that people need in order to work the livable wage jobs of today, which will in turn impact the worker shortage the US is already seeing.

About 70% of college graduates have student loans — about 43 million borrowers. The average student loan debt is about $37,000, but there are huge racial and ethnic disparities buried in that statistic, with white borrowers owing about $30,000 and black borrowers owing about $55,000.

Bailey pointed out that the mounting financial strain of student loans can lengthen the time it takes to graduate. Only about 50% of university level students who enter into higher education actually graduate by their sixth year, and after their sixth year, it’s not very likely that they will graduate at all.

As a first-generation Latina graduate herself, Bailey is very thankful for the opportunities provided by her family that lead to achieving a career after graduation, but she recognizes that, for a lot of lower income and even middle income households, sending their kids to college just isn’t financially feasible anymore. Which makes any amount of support that much more impactful.

“I’m really happy to announce that the UCCS economic forum now has two fellowships that they’re going to be offering to two undergraduate students each year, thanks to the generous support of the roughly 60 economic business partners who we have who funded the forum,” said Bailey.

“Now alone, these two fellowships are not going to change the morass of problems that we have in higher education. However; maybe, just maybe, they can make a difference for two deserving students and their kids for generations to come.”