Financial Aid Office, Business Office, Bursar: those are just some of the names that college students dread when it comes time to pay tuition.
Most students come into college with an eclectic mix of federal, state, and private financial aid. But for many the pitfalls of loans are unavoidable.
Many students graduate with tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. It gets worse if they go on to graduate school, where often loans are the only way to pay for their advanced degrees.
But there is hope. Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., has introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness Act which will forgive the educational debt of certain former students.
The bill is designed to help college graduates who have ended up paying much of their income to student loans, by forgiving their debt via a 10-10 rule. Under Clarke’s plan students who have paid 10 percent or more of their discretionary income for 10 years, will have their student debt forgiven.
This bill is a good place to start on reforming our higher education system.
But why not also focus on comprehensive higher education reform? Costs continue to go up. And while this plan helps students with lots of debt who are struggling years after school, it does nothing to help current or rising students who are being forced into the exact same situation to pay for their education. Comprehensive reform is needed.
Back in February I wrote an article on the value of public education. In that article I proposed a comprehensive solution for higher education. Under the plan loans would be phased out and replaced by permanent guaranteed federal scholarships available to all students who opt for a public college, university, or vocational/technical school. These scholarships would be funded through a strong central progressive taxation scheme with the burden being on the top incomes. Additionally we can expand Pell grants and state grants in the short term until such scholarships become available.
I applaud Rep. Clarke for sponsoring a bill that is an excellent place to start on loan and higher education reform. Recent budget cuts in the budget have resulted in reduced means of financial aid for students and increased tuition, housing and other fees, meaning students are forced to rely even more on loans.
The time for reform is now.
Photo: Marcus Bernales // CC 2.0