So….I know this is a topic that has been, in many senses beaten to death, but there has been no headway made, so I guess, what could the harm of me putting my two cents into the ring? I have a sort of odd association that first comes to my mind when thinking about this topic. I have a subscription to Time Magazine (mainly because it’s a weekly for only $20 a year and yes, I am one of the few 20 somethings who actually enjoys reading the written word on paper and owns not one product from Apple! But, once again, I digress…) In one of the recent issues of Time, there was a two page picture of a newborn, and the title said, “Hi! My name is Sophia and I was born in January, 2012 and I can already tell you some things about myself.” One balloon that really jumped out at me stated: by the time I am 21, my parents will have spend $150,000 on a private college education, if I was born in Germany it would be free. How can this be? In the greatest free country in the world, the champion of freedom and equality, a college education, and therefore, a pathway to a better life and advancement can cost so much, yet, across the ocean it costs a citizen absolutely NOTHING?!?!?!? What’s wrong with this picture!?!?!? As someone with over $50,000 of student loan debt, I speak from personal experience. At the end of day, unless you are extremely wealthy or extremely poor (qualifying for the ludicrously low standards for grants set by the Feds), in order to attend college you will have to agree to put yourself into a significant amount of debt. I basically just try to never think about it, and optimistically assume that, one day I will be able to make a dent in paying it back.
I think at the heart of this issue is the fact, that student loans were originally set up by the Feds as a way for low and middle income students to afford a higher education. They were NEVER EVER supposed to be a for-profit industry. However, industry giants like Sallie Mae, EdFinancial, and Great Lakes, are literally making millions on interest and repayment at the expense of US college students. Why? Is it because they donate millions to political campaigns and have lobbyists with extremely deep pockets in our capital? I cannot definitively prove it, but I would put good money on it.
So, as a country what are we suppose to do? Obama has attempted to make sweeping legislative change, but as basically with everything he has tried to do since 2008, the GOP has fought him tooth and nail for every inch. So, I guess it’s up to us, ordinary Americans. We simply have to bring this to the attention of our elected representatives. We put them there and they work for us, we must hold them accountable for their votes! This means insisting financial aid for a college education go through some drastic changes! Let’s start with a fixed interest rate throughout the lifetime of the loan, expanding the Federal Work Study Program, Pell Grants, and other grant programs. Additionally, how about making majors where there is an immense demand, such as science and engineering, cheaper for students who agree to work an agreed upon number of years in these fields. Most importantly, a ten year limit, if you have not been able to pay back any of your debt by then, the loans will be forgiven!
If Europe, can make a free higher education system work, it is to the benefit of all Americans if we do so too! Demand reform and accept nothing less!
What do you think would work and should be used to fix this immense problem?
Thanks for your ideas and for reading! Have an awesome weekend!