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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Future of affordable education looks bleak

    While there are a variety of loans, scholarships and federal aid options available for students, the future is still not looking bright, especially for those aiming to get subsidized federal student loans.

    In 2007, Congress passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act that set the interest rate at 3.4 percent for subsidized federal student loans for a period of four years. It was up for renewal last summer during campaign season, but because Congress extended the lower rate then, it will be addressed this year.

    If Congress does not take action by July, the loan interest rate will increase up to 6.8 percent, which would apply to any new subsidized federal loan a student takes. Part of this is President Barack Obama’s proposal to make interest rates on new student loans better aligned with market rates.

    Student loan debt in our country has exceeded $1 trillion dollars, according to Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, and approximately $85 billion is past due, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

    On average, a typical undergraduate student at a four-year public institution who receives a bachelor’s degree graduates with about $7,960 in debt, according to College Board.

    Affording a college education seems to be more and more of an unrealistic goal. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009-2010, 50 percent of students who attended a four-year public university received a student loan.

    The Federal Subsidized Stafford loan is one of the main loans in the federal program. These loans are typically only given to students who demonstrate financial need that are generally from low-to-moderate income families.

    According to a recent Washington Post article, the government is projecting about 7.2 million students to take out this type of loan in the coming year, with the total volume of these Stafford loans estimated for the 2014 fiscal year to be $29.3 billion.

    Despite the $34 billion that the federal government expects to make off of student loans next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, some leaders in Congress see a raise in interest as a way to trim down the national debt.

    “The revenue from student loans should be used to keep education affordable and should never be used to pay down the deficit or for other federal programs,” said Ethan Senack, the higher education advocate at the United States Public Interest Research Group, to the New York Times.

    Arizona’s higher education per-student spending got cut by half this year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Two weeks ago, the Arizona Board of Regents approved a 3 percent tuition increase.

    As state funding decreases, tuition is forced to rise, and students have to pay more out of pocket than ever. This makes the problem worse and forces individuals to start their careers with 20 plus years of debt, jeopardizing credit scores and other loan approvals.

    But it isn’t as though students can just avoid going to college. According to a state-level analysis at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, it is projected that by 2018, 61 percent of jobs in Arizona will require postsecondary education.

    Congress needs to act to renew the current plan and avoid increasing interest rates. It is not going to make a big dent in the current total of student loan debt, it is just jeopardizing the ability of incoming students to even have the chance of affording a degree.

    —Razanne Chatila is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions

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