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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    U.S. senatorial candidate offers solution to student debt crisis

    Close to 40,000 students trek across campus on any given day, buzzing with the innovative ideas that only a research university can instigate. The University of Arizona touts many scientific discoveries, all made possible by student research, from synthesizing the state’s first bark scorpion antivenom to creating a new treatment for child asthma patients. Is there a way to harness a student’s intellectual property that offsets the cost of school?

    Tuition for in-state residents at the UA is already high enough at $10,050 per semester and 66 percent of students are averaging more than $25,000 of debt after graduation. The extent of government aid in the form of Pell grants and Stafford loans can only go so far.

    There is a solution to the student debt crisis, according to U.S. Senatorial candidate and Tucson native Dr. Richard Carmona, who served as the 17th Surgeon General under former President George W. Bush.

    “One idea is to work with the private sector to make a scholarship program with the health profession’s schools and specific workforces,” said Carmona in a phone interview. “We are going to look at funding streams and possibly create a total stipend, like in military or public service where school would be free.”

    The proposed plan would allow students to self-fund their college education while also generating profit for the university.

    Qualified students who discover the next new drug or technological advancement could gain revenue and royalties from it.

    “We would look for good marketable scientific ideas that the private sector would want to invest in, so that money comes back with interest to the student’s discovery and also the doctor and university involved,” Carmona said.

    There are many students that assist doctors and researchers in labs, whether it’s to discover a new type of cancer treatment or the synthesis of hydrogen fuel. In return, undergraduate researchers earn just a few credit hours. If the UA were to adapt this new “business plan,” students could be paid in the form of college scholarships by the private sector for their time and contribution to research. It would be a partnership between the student researchers and private companies that helps fund their education and the university as a whole. Most students would agree that this sounds like a pretty fair trade, especially when 90-120 research hours equates to only three or four course credits.

    Harnessing intellectual property is what will get students a job.

    It’s a matter of knowing one’s skills and having the opportunity to market and profit from those skills. Capitalists would act sooner than later and so should college students.

    Our political climate is heated and highly divided when it comes to a solution to the student debt crisis. Many re-election campaigns are focused on birth control, abortion and same-sex marriage debates, when the crux of the issue is economically and educationally based.

    “Through the eyes of students there is a very clear path forward,” Carmona said. “Stick to what is important. Partisan divisions whether political pandering or re-election strategies are really hurting our nation. My hope for students is that they reject that notion and be driven to do innovative things. Keep saying how do we fix this? What’s the solution? Both sides need to just agree ‘OK, we’ve both made a lot of mistakes, let’s move forward and find a solution.’”

    The next generation of Mark Zuckerburgs and Jack Dorseys rightfully deserve to catch a break on tuition and the ability to award scholarships to more students might very well lie in the hands of the private sector. This business-like strategy is already being implemented in other schools such as Harvard, Stanford and Arizona State University. Maybe the UA will be next.

    ­­— 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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