America's student loan crisis

 

1. The cost of higher education has risen dramatically over the last 50 years. A four-year, full-time public university, including tuition, fees, room, and board, using 2013 dollars, would've cost $6,966 in 1964. In 2013, the price is $17,474. It's just not possible anymore to "work your way through college" as it was in the '60s and '70s without taking on big debt.

---

2. Universities have little incentive to make college affordable. American children grow up being told (fairly legitimately) they must receive higher education to have a shot at a decent-paying job and a good life, so the demand for college education has now become very inelastic. This means that attempts to keep tuition low are unlikely to be successful.

3. While institutions are bringing in more money than ever, most of it is going toward capital improvements, large increases in administrative staff and administrative bonuses, and athletics. The staffing levels for academics have stayed pretty steady over the last 30 years, meaning all this new money by-and-large is not going directly toward providing students a better education.

4. Student loans themselves are rigged entirely for the benefit of the big banking industry, government, and universities that control and profit off them and very much against the borrowers, many of them 18-year-olds who have very little understanding of what they're signing. The picture included on this post perfectly shows what interest can do when someone takes on a rigged loan.
Now, what can we do?
1. Sign a petition to support Ohio's own U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Elizabeth Warren's Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which allows students who are no longer in school to take advantage of the same low interest rates now being offered to new students. This legislation is currently stalled in our Accomplish Nothing U.S. Congress and only the voice of the people will get it going again.
2. Advocate guaranteed tuition rates for those who graduate on-time. Unfortunately, many who struggle the most with student debt never finished earning their degree. So they ended up in a lose-lose. Some institutions are undertaking a model where tuition would be locked in place for the first 4 years, so if you finish your degree in that time, you'll be paying the same rate as a senior you were as a freshman. My college tuition went up 24 percent while I was in school. I graduated in 4 years. This policy could've saved me a lot of money.
3. Base state-share of instruction on successful graduation rates. As mentioned above, the key is to get students to graduate so they are trained for the higher-paying positions that can help them afford their debt. Reward institutions that are graduating their students by tying their state share of instruction monies to their success on that end.
4. Stop giving ridiculous bonuses to administrative staff, driving up tuition costs while students struggle more than ever. If you insist on bonuses, moderate ones will suffice. Prioritize spending toward faculty and direct educational benefits for students.

5. Given that only a handful of athletic programs around the country actually bring money into the university, while all the rest are subsidized, the football coach at these athletics-subsidized institutions should not be the highest paid employee on campus. Ohio State football makes money. University of Toledo football drains money. Act accordingly.

7. Invest in the middle-class. The upper-class doesn't struggle with student loan debt—the lower and middle classes do. We need to combat the unemployment and underemployment that exacerbates the student loan crisis, and get these people good-paying, benefit-having jobs. When they have those jobs, they can pay down their student loans, and they can grow the economy by participating as consumers. When consumers have money, businesses thrive, hire and produce. We will not get there by funneling money toward the top to people who don't do large-scale consumption. The middle- and lower-classes are America's consumer base. Invest in them, and watch the economy grow as the country prospers.

Here endeth the rant.

Find Senior Writer David DeWitt on Facebook and Follow on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.

Load comments