College amid the student debt crisis

ABC News’ Trevor Ault looks at the student loan debt crisis and asks financial experts the tough question: Is college still worth it?
9:01 | 08/20/20

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Transcript for College amid the student debt crisis
They're now growing calls for a student loan bill of rights or some set a nationwide protections for the millions buckling under crushing debt. The higher costs of higher education he is creating a stranglehold on mobility for Solomon. Many say it's only getting worse. So tonight we wanted to take a comprehensive look at the crisis are Trevor all begins his look with what happened with one group of students in the surprise gift from a billionaire. The change their lives. 396. Graduating seniors at Morehouse College sat listening to commencement speaker and billionaire Robert Smith last may. Stuart your plus many in the crowd didn't even know who Smith Wallace. He was about to change their lives. This is my class. Story ninety. Then my family is making a grant to eliminate this from you know. With that gesture of 34 million dollars in student debt was wiped away. Including that of do you like Kirkland and. I'm gonna live there was part of me that was lying men are. Eli wasn't even supposed to be there that day. Financial laid issues had kept him from graduating the year before after getting behind on credit card payments and his parents taking out loans to help. He was ready to leave more house with more than a hundred grand in student loans. Instead he left was zero. Your depth reading. I laid on the net act and Chris corporate well into its busy you'll just have so much freedom act handicapped in that anchored it. We're racks. Zones and your decision or. Jordan Randall classes when he when he did not get a billionaire minutes to speak. He didn't even get a commencement. Tax. With corona virus sending everyone home his family put together this humble socially distance gathering in the back yard. While Jordan is still grateful for what he has debt collectors don't take gratitude as payment for a student loans is simply eat. Murdered. Her. At least then used. It was is that. Moving in Nino. Getting my new car trying to quiet for another credit card is Judy is typical little scene have been a lot our. Both Eli in Jordan fresh into the workforce say the system of higher education needs to be reexamined that exorbitant college costs media putting those who want to degree. In a position where they can only get ahead if there bailed out by a billionaire. There a lot of people who are struggling. Or you know who have that degree eight and can't final word or use and every penny you pay off. That dead monarchy Larson consumers and the team in Judy studied. And in the midst of the pandemic jordin and the millions paying student loans have some temporary relief in March the congressional relief package suspended federal student loan payments and collections in waived interest. To help our students and their families I've. Waived interest at all student loans held by federal government. Agency's. President trump has since extended that through the end of the year. But that relief is not going to last for ever and seeing the rapidly inflating student loan totals currently one point seven trillion dollars nationwide researchers are examining the question is an increasingly expensive college education even worth it. This is outpaced inflation and an and other growth in prices and wages. Earlier many many Americans and our. And at the right. Lowell rickets is lead analyst of the Saint Louis fed center for household financial stability and while he says yes college is still worthy investment. You have to be Smart about it because the payoff is it nearly is guaranteed as it was a generation ago. Or returns. Relatives near future generations are Kindle or there into weakened when it comes a well. And it's even more striking for graduates of color according to their data for black Americans born as early as the 1960s. Having a college or post graduate degree was statistically insignificant. To their wealth. That on average even with all that extra schooling they basically broke even in point is under fundamental well sorts of being. Deeply entrenched. In our history. And shows how difficult it is for anyone family you're an individual. Who has gained ground on was done and how well you religion. We need based on reason and you. The millions of America. He's taking on these giant student loans are betting on themselves in the opportunities a degree can provide and make no mistake higher education still plays an enormous role in awkward social movement. For a huge percentage of Americans but college education has certainly never cost more since 1998 the price of college tuition has risen a 183%. More than three times faster than overall inflation. From 19892016. The collective balance of outstanding student loan debt for American families rose from eight point 9% to 22 point 4%. Nearly seven in ten members of the class of 4019 took out some form of a student loan at graduating with an average debt of nearly 30000 dollars and they joined the 44 million Americans with student debt. And more than 11% of those student loans are at least ninety days delinquent orient default. First stop the dreams of a college degree can soon turned into a nightmarish burden. When I finish college I was. I would. Is working at a car an. Apple is also the liquid balance. Its. I still couldn't owner well. At its 700. Katrina Williams found herself would more than a 100000 dollars in student loan payments and she couldn't get a better paying job she says she was caught in a vicious cycle breaking out in hides from the stress. Even sometimes too broke to buy gas to go to work. I want a job 08. Lula de Soto loudly head. I'd still be able to radar the next years. Katrina moved to Japan to teaching decided she just wouldn't pay her loans she says almost immediately the stress was lifted. But the horror she feels towards what she says is a written system hasn't gone away. Around with. In my head who don't know what I'm good lady. No I did the teacher. I dare call the number of people whose guerrilla. You are eating RO BE me. Chris Lee. Our own dad. No financial or legal expert would recommend defaulting on your loans and leaving the country. They do cough is the founder of admit which helps students maximize their financial aid opportunities. Are they really. We're that her car crash that earns nearly eight million dollars more orderly or is there any plan that barrel. And it's not common ingredient. So check easy easy we're yeah Ito's. For students looking to go to college he says it's essential to know the financial implications ahead of time. Just as you would for buying a house or car and if you're already mounting debt. Exhaust every available option like income driven re payment. To minimize the burden if you can't. These are not understanding that options are available there is day to addressing if you. As a day. There's a lot of portfolios that are students. And communities my. It is fun and and others who. That it shouldn't let. Of course for the most recent graduates that may not sound very promising and even Jordan who already has a job it is working toward paying off his dad's. He says it's time for a major overhaul. I think. This issue with this student loan system is now basic bus there doesn't your view change in our you know academic system instead. And you know because I do feel like it's still benefits. People. I'm from well you know because that's who. Lose men or. Trevor alt ABC news New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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