The rigors of college are no joke. Neither, in Pennsylvania, are the tuition payments.

A study on student debt across the country found that our state’s students have the highest amount of student loans.

A 2018 study found that 67% of Pennsylvania’s students come out of college with an average debt of $36,193. That amount rose nearly 3% from the 2016 figures.

In comparison, the top ranked state, Utah, lists an average debt of $18,425, with 39% of students saddled with loan repayments after they graduate.

Now, combine that with a recent study from that found Pennsylvania’s undergrads who want to avoid school debt entirely would have to work nearly triple time (119.6 hours a week at minimum wage) if they wanted to pay their way through school.

There are only 168 hours in a week, so an erstwhile student who wants to come out of undergrad debt free would have a whopping 48.4 hours to sleep, go to class and study.

Totally doable, right?

Pennsylvania topped that study, too — not in the good way.

The study noted we have the second highest in-state tuition in the country and the lowest minimum wage allowable under federal law.

Either of those studies should make every single person ask how we ever expect our college students to get ahead in life.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent proposal to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15/hour might have helped some if it had come to fruition, but it required an initial large jump (from $7.25 to $12 an hour) that would’ve hit a lot of businesses, especially small ones, hard.

But really, that alone wouldn’t fix the problem. Pennsylvania’s lawmakers need to step up and figure out what our state can do to make college less of a financial burden.

A college education was always meant to be an investment. It is supposed to pave the way for a better, hopefully more lucrative, life.

That’s less likely to happen in this state because getting a degree for nearly 70% of students means decades of loan repayments.

Other states have found ways to make college less of a financial burden; yet here, a proposal called the Pennsylvania Promise Act languishes in a state committee.

Proposed for a second time in January, the PPA would cover tuition and fees for recent high school grads attending community college, a state-owned or a state-related university for families with an income of $110,000 or less per year.

Similar legislation has been enacted in New York and Tennessee, according to the proposal.

Maybe the PPA isn’t the perfect answer, but it’s a start at meaningful changes to make education affordable.

We would urge our state lawmakers to set aside partisanship and put their heads together to look for a solution that benefits the young people of this state. Our legislators talk about wanting to keep people here, about wanting them to do great things in Pennsylvania.

Then give college students a chance. Give them the chance to attain an affordable education that doesn’t hamstring them for the next 20 or 30 years with loan repayments as they work their way up in their careers.

Give them a chance to buy a car, to own a home, to not live paycheck to paycheck riddled with debt.

Give them a better chance at a lifetime of success.

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