Opinion
Education Opinion

Reforming College Debt, Part I: The Problem

By Matthew Lynch — February 19, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If the P-12 education system is all about preparing its students for success in adulthood, then college preparation is obviously a must. In the fall of 2012, 66 percent of high school graduates from that year were enrolled in college, and that number does not include students that waited longer to enroll or non-traditional adult students. It seems that P-12 classrooms are getting more students ready for the academic demands of a college education - but what about the financial commitment?

Today I want to look at the inherent problems with the college payment and lending system, both private and public, as it stands today. On Friday, I will look at some possible solutions under consideration across the country.

A study by the Urban Institute found that almost 300,000 Americans with master’s degrees were on public relief, along with 30,000 with doctorates. The average debt of a college graduate is $35,200 and that can take decades to pay off. For most students, the payoff is worth it. By today’s number, a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree can expect to make nearly 1 million more than high school graduate peers in a lifetime - well over the cost to attend.

Still, with college graduation estimated to be a basic requirement for nearly 60 percent of jobs by 2018, and certainly the key to the American Dream for many young people, the question arises: should a college education come with such a high price tag?

The timing for the call for a more affordable college education, at least in the urgency of the past decade or so, makes sense. It comes on the heels of a recession that undercut the value of a college education. Even those with a college degree were not immune to the financial hit that the economy took and those still paying off their student loans were often left without the very job they had always assumed would pay off their educational debts. A look at the way college loans are distributed and administered was certainly in the cards as the latest generation of college graduates saw the real ramifications of payment in an economy that simply could not support it.

The Obama Administration has spearheaded college loan reform at the federal level. No stranger to student debt himself (nor the First Lady), he has implemented payment reform starting this year that includes:

• New borrowers will pay no more than 10 percent of their disposable income towards outstanding student loans.

• Any student debt remaining will be wiped clean after 20 years.

• Public service employees, like military members, nurses or teachers, will have their debt forgiven in 10 years if they make their payments on time.

These actions address the high cost of college attendance as it exists today - but what about the cost itself? If it is taking students half of their working careers to pay off their college loans (in some cases) and then there is still money remaining that needs to be “forgiven,” isn’t that just a little bit excessive? Of course colleges are more than simply places for students to attend class and live. College campuses are national treasures in their own ways, hubs of research and technology that have benefits that extend beyond the current students in attendance. Those perks come at a premium - but should it be the students who pay for it, and for so long?

The lifetime earnings numbers show the clear reasons why a particular student benefits from a college degree, but that thought pattern is too narrow. The economy and shared learning of the entire country sees a lift when more if its youth are educated at a college level.

Should the cost of those achievements fall on the shoulders of the students - or be financed in a more communal way?

Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP