Student Loan Forgiveness and Tuition-Free Colleges
September 8, 2022
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the 2022 Spring semester saw a 4.1% decline in enrollment from the previous year. This number when viewed in isolation appears rather innocuous; however, when considering the four years prior, we recognize a total decline of 11.1%. So, what might account for this decline in undergraduate student enrollment? With 55% of students struggling to find the financial resources to pay for their studies and 51% of college dropouts leaving college because of lack of money, it becomes apparent that financing one’s college expenses may help account for this decline. The answer to the question of how to reduce the decline of student enrollment lies within analysis of the financial burden that is placed on today’s college students. Today’s College Costs U.S. News reported that tuition for the 2021-2022 academic school year at a private college average $43,775, $28,238 for out-of-state students at public colleges, and $11,631 for in-state students at public colleges. This averages to $27,881.33 per U.S. student! Though this number is extremely high, it does not include additional costs that college students will incur during their studies, such as textbooks, supplies, transportation and groceries. This causes approximately 4 out of 10 high school students to rate cost as the most important factor when selecting colleges. This leads to the seemingly obvious question: how are today’s students paying almost $30,000 for their post-secondary education? Student Loans According to a report produced by SLM Corporation, on average student borrowing covered 11% of college costs while parent borrowing covered around 9% (per the 2020-21 academic school year, this is seen in the image below).
While these loans are often an important and necessary financial resource, after graduation, they put recent college graduates in the extremely difficult position of having to repay thousands (sometime hundreds of thousands of dollars). Recent research shows that while these loans may vary based off interest rates and the starting loan amount, many of them can take as many twenty years to be paid off. Student Loan Forgiveness Seeing how the average college student of today will owe around $30,000 after graduation, many people have begun to push for the federal government to forgive loans that were authorized by the federal government in accordance with the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Education. In fact, making recent news are U.S. President Biden’s efforts to forgive up to $10,000 worth of loans for individuals who make less $125,000 annually. Some advocates for student loan forgiveness state that they find the expectations unrealistic, and that the financial stress placed on the borrower to be a barrier to success in life. Meanwhile others make the argument that borrowers should be expected to repay their loans since a college education is not essential to success. Tuition-Free Colleges There has, however, become more traction in recent years for the government to provide the funds for Americans to go to college without having to pay. Organizations like the Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT) and Rise are some of the strongest supporters of this fight, with strong efforts for legislative action to bring tuition-free colleges to fruition. Some argue that making colleges tuition-free may reduce the quality of a post-secondary education or even trivialize it, organizations like Rise and say that it matters more to make education more accessible for those who are low-income and racial/ethnic minorities and may encounter systemic barriers. While the federal government seems to show no interest in making this idea reality, some states (such as New Mexico, New York, and others) have taken the burden upon themselves to begin passing legislation that increases the accessibility of associate and bachelor’s degrees, as well as technical certificates. Conclusion Post-secondary education is important to many people in modern-day America, and yet it remains out of reach for so many. Some people choose to approach this problem with the solution of student loan debt forgiveness, while others argue that loan forgiveness happens too late in the cycle and that tuition-free colleges are a better solution. Opposingly, there is an equal number of citizens who think that the economic consequences of student loan forgiveness or free post-secondary education are too severe and that staying on the current course is better, despite how this may impact the quality of life of many students. No matter the variance of opinions on the topic, the commonly accepted principle is that the current educational model that is in place in the U.S. is unstable, unsustainable, and exclusionary. The determining power then lands in the hands of all citizens with voting capacity.
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