Your Turn — Is this a swan song for colleges?
Published 12:00 pm Thursday, September 15, 2022
In the last three decades, many have been concerned about the direction of our colleges. Despite that, we as parents have encouraged our youth to attend college to broaden their opportunities in life.
A college diploma tells employers that a young person is capable of accomplishing some goals and, therefore, might be worth giving a chance as an employee. Often, however, unless the student was focused on an employable skill, that job may not have been in the realm in which the student studied. Since many young people start college with limited knowledge of what careers might be available to them, this has not been unusual.
Some of those have never considered the opportunity that may or may not be available in their course of study. They hope to keep their dreams alive despite limited opportunities. Often, because of too many applicants for available positions, they pay poorly, too poorly to pay student loans and sustain the lifestyle that they wish to maintain.
Other young people are unsuccessful as college students. It may be because they were unprepared academically or they were too busy socially to study as needed. The end results for those students often have been that they have no degree, but they are burdened with debt to repay.
This leads us to President Biden’s decision to pay a portion of a student’s debt off, to the tune of up to $20,000 for some. There are many flaws with his decision to take this action.
First, there is no authority for a President to make a spending decision that has not been approved by Congress. This President knew this, yet he acted, claiming that he was using excess funds from Covid, while at the same time ending free Covid test kits.
Second, it is unethical for those who committed to repay loaned funds for their own education to demand that the taxpayers now have a responsibility to pay any of those students’ loans. Taxpayers that have either not gone to college or attended and fulfilled their commitment to repay those loans.
Third, it creates a mentality of people that they are not responsible for that which they are obligated. $10,000 or $20,000 this time, then maybe more in future years. Likewise, if society owes them an education, then would it not lead them to believe that an expensive car or house should also be provided to them?
Fourth, it will drive greater inflation. A young lady was interviewed by the Richmond Times Dispatch. When asked how she would deal with the $20,000 windfall, she stated that she could buy a new car, travel, or maybe run up greater debt by getting her doctorate degree. She didn’t consider a faster plan to pay off the $64,000 remainder of her student loan. The same thought process will be held by many. They will feel free to spend money freely when their incomes might not justify such spending.
Fifth, it will drive up the cost of college education for those students that are currently enrolled or future students. Universities have had no reason to control expenses in the past. This has been driven by the ease in which students can get loans. We are now seeing that many young people have no idea how much debt they are accumulating or how it will be repaid. School administrations, seeing how easy it has been to lobby for debt forgiveness, will feel free to raise tuition and fees, fully expecting the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.
We need to offer young people a better understanding of their options of a successful future. Skills training can be very rewarding financially.
We need to reconsider how loans are offered. Look back to the period in which education loans were a function of banks and compare that to the years since, when Sallie Mae started offering unsecured loans.
This cycle of never-ending tuition increases didn’t occur overnight. It has increased exponentially in recent years and will continue to do so if we do not have a major overhaul of higher education.
If we are to forgive loan repayments, then there must be a commitment for recipients to do things such as take teaching jobs that are unfilled as we enter a school year.
FRANK RUFF JR. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen. Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.