YOUR OPINION: Student Loan Forgiveness

Dan Tschirgi, Lohman

Dear Editor,

The president’s plan to cancel student loans has many concerns beyond $300 billion to $600 billion in unrestricted deficit spending, unless that’s no longer an issue like the border plan was. $20 billion from Trump.

The current system of public loans for higher education, many of which go to publicly funded colleges and universities, has allowed costs to rise at rates above inflation for many years. When President Obama brought the student loan system entirely under federal control and declared that college was a right and would reduce poverty, money really began to flow more freely. Colleges and universities were happy that enrollment grew along with income. Back when a prospective student had to walk into a bank and apply for a student loan, it was more comparable to the real world of loans where a loan is given for something of real value that will be repaid with interest. By the way, my recollection is that interest rates through the bank were lower then.

It is important to keep the discussion on the total costs of higher education, and not only on the part that the student pays. Why have total costs increased so dramatically, so steeply as health care costs? No one seems to have an answer. In my personal experience, engineering school costs from 2014 to 2019 in Missouri have increased by at least 60% over five years (not including room and board). I believe there is a state law limiting tuition to a 5% increase per year. Costs have been stealthily rising 12% per year through “fees” and other devices. We have a state auditor who might investigate this, but universities seem to operate in a parallel universe, immune to real scrutiny or audit. This audit could even collect data on degrees that do not lead to salaried jobs and questions such as whether a costly division of inclusion, diversity and equity has resulted in more inclusion, of diversity and equity.

The Legislature must step up and fund infrastructure for state colleges and technical schools, but not for frivolous curricula. We need electricians, mechanics, medical professionals, scientists, teachers, serious musicians and artists, accountants, engineers, even lawyers, etc., just as much as we need excellent primary and secondary education. But control costs and don’t give loans without collateral in the form of potential careers.

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