community college debt hardship growingTwo different stories published this week paint a depressing picture of the growing income equality dividing the nation. On the one hand, there’s the fast growing debt crisis at community colleges, which President Barack Obama has said are “at the heart of the American Dream.”

Then, there’s this in-depth report in The Atlantic from Laura Hamilton, who spent years observing so-called “helicopter parents” at a major public university. While so many students struggle to pay bills while attending even the most affordable community colleges, there are parents like Alexis, who helicopter their children from college straight into a high-paying job.

Alexis had handpicked her daughter’s new university specifically for its Greek life, big-time sports, and array of not particularly challenging majors. She and her husband, a CFO of a major Fortune 500 company, were intent on giving their daughter the ideal social experience in college… Alexis also shipped bags of designer clothes to help her child fit in with affluent sorority members.

[She] was gearing for a media career in sports marketing or communications — jobs that focused more on prior job experience and social connections than grades. Thankfully, her parents had this covered. During college they secured her several internships with a major media studio. After college, her father tapped his networks again, landing her a position paying $60,000 annually, in a company that was otherwise laying off workers.

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, Alexis and her husband still paid their daughter’s $2,400 a month rent for her New York City apartment.

Meanwhile, the number of students taking on debt to attend two-year community colleges has more than doubled. And because community college students are usually working class students paying their own way, many will fail to graduate at all, which means they have little to no hope of paying back their student loans.

As the cost of traditional four-year colleges continues to skyrocket, even at public state schools, many people are turning to community colleges as an affordable alternative. Yet even on community campuses, many students borrow money to help cover the costs of textbooks, transportation, and living expenses.

In a telling sign, CNN Money reports that the lower the size of the loan, the more likely the student is to default on their debt. Today, one in five young Americans, ages 18 to 24, already qualify as being in a state of “debt hardship,” while Millennials as a whole now hold a record $1 trillion in student loans.

President Barack Obama has offered proposals to make two-year community college tuition free for America’s young people, but those ideas are still a pipe dream so long as the Republicans hold both houses of Congress and a majority of statehouses around the country.