Thursday, June 4, 2015

Making college affordable is key to America's future

The cost of higher education is out of control, and has been for many years. As tuition soared sky-high, more and more U.S. young adults went deep into debt trying to finance their future. And today, many are being crushed by the weight of their borrowing.

College costs are hitting students hard.
Until recently, there didn't seem to be enough lawmakers demanding change when it came to the high cost of college. Sure, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would decry student loan interest rates, but too many elected officials were silent on the bigger question of reducing the price tag for post-secondary education.

Now, however, there seems to be momentum for a broader solution, one that could even play a role in the 2016 elections. Some 20 Democratic senators support a measure that would spur government to tap down on the spiraling costs of higher ed.

As outlined in The Hill newspaper:
The resolution deals in broad strokes rather than granular details. It calls upon the federal government to provide more support to states, which can then “make increased investments in higher education that will result in lower tuition and costs for students.” It also backs increased financial aid for students — in contrast to the House GOP’s recent budget plan that would freeze Pell grants at their current level — as well as efforts to bend the cost curve of college education downward.
The need for such legislation cannot be overstated. While rising tuition has hampered many students, it has hit those that hail from low-income families the most. Even the brightest of those coming from economically challenged families often can't finish college. Meanwhile, their less intelligent but better-off classmates muddle through.

As detailed in Slate:
What happens to these bright, low-income students? It's not so much that they don't attend college—only 12.4 percent skip higher ed entirely. The problem is that most don't finish, or settle for less than a bachelor's degree, which of course limits their earning power later in life. Sometimes they try to save money on tuition by attending community college, even though most two-year schools have a spotty track record when it comes to helping students graduate. Sometimes they get lost or overwhelmed in a college's bureaucracy, because they don't have educated parents who can help guide them along. Sometimes they try to work through school and simply can't balance the demands of a job with their academics. For one reason or another, they don't make it as far as their talent suggests they should.
America simply cannot allow this continue to happen. It tramples on this nation's history as "The Land of Opportunity" and raises questions about whether working hard is the classroom ultimately does pay off for all students. And it tamps down on innovation and U.S. economic gains.

Education is at the core of what makes this country great. If lawmakers wants to get more people working in good middle-class jobs, they need to prioritize it.