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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    No quick fix for the student loan crisis

    Experts link higher education with better health, work productivity and economic growth, but what happens when tuition costs continually increase, employment opportunities fizzle and student debt hits $904 billion?

    Since the 1990s the average tuition rate at four-year universities has doubled. The average cost of attending an in-state university for 2010-2011 academic year was about $20,000 and the average cost of attending a private school was nearly $40,000 according to the National Center for Education and Statistics.

    Tuition at the University of Arizona for residents has increased 82 percent since 2007 and is approximately $10,050 per semester. In the last year alone, in-state tuition rose 17 percent, the largest increase out of all Arizona universities and the second highest spike in the nation next to California State University, whose tuition rose 25 percent in 2011.

    And to make the situation brighter, the New York Times reported that in 2010, the unemployment rates of graduates were at 9.1 percent, a national high.

    Along with outlandish tuition costs and high unemployment, student loan interest rates are expected to increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. Legislative action could stop the increase, but it would cost the government $6 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office to extend the lower interest rate for one year.

    Is an increase in loan interest rates really that bad?

    Here’s something to consider: The government provides loans to students who can’t afford the complete expense of a college education. For example, the popular unsubsidized federal Stafford loan gives a dependent student a maximum of $5,500 for their first undergraduate year. Universities realize they won’t get as much out-of-pocket money from students, so they raise tuition in relation to the amount of government loans. Raising tuition makes students cry to the government for lower interest rates and higher loan amounts. This cycle continues to cost taxpayers and the federal government more money along the way.

    The higher education system and the federal government determine the cost of education and the amount of aid available. Statistically 50 percent of graduates are either unemployed or in jobs that don’t require degrees. Two-thirds of college seniors who graduated in 2010 had an average debt of $25,250 according to an article by the New York Times.

    Is it fair to financially drain students with high tuition and high interest rates, in return for a degree that promises only half of their graduating class a job?

    At the other end of the spectrum there are the college students who throw away money for four years on a degree that will not help to repay loans. Eight million people rely on taxpayer subsidized Stafford loans and nearly 9 percent or 720,000 students default on them according to a report by the U.S. Department of Education. This rate is higher than delinquency rates of mortgages, auto loans and personal credit card debt according to economists. Students are either squandering federal money or defenseless to the poor job market.

    The answer is not simple. There is no quick fix and it’s going to take time. The education system needs a makeover that maintains opportunity for those in need of academic loans, wisely allocates taxpayer money and finds more innovative ways to pay for college expenses.

    Be wary of politicians who promise to fix the student debt crisis if elected. Ask them how they will first fix the unemployment rates. The reason higher education is worth the investment, is because it secures a job. Until our country renews job security, a college degree can only take you so far.

    — Courtney L’Ecuyer is a journalism and public health senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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