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Thursday, January 20, 2022


Small Michigan college’s debt repayment plan for students just a PR stunt

Adrian College, a small liberal arts school in Michigan, has promised to make student loan payments for graduates who earn less than $20,000 annually, and up to $37,000 on a sliding scale.  The program will start with next year’s freshmen.

Jeffrey Docking, president of Adrian College, notes, “It has become increasingly clear that money and student debt are major hurdles for parents and students to get over as they consider higher education.” With Adrian’s tuition bills at around $40,000 per year, it’s no wonder.

Average student loan debt in Michigan is $27,000, and more than half of the state’s college students graduate with loans to repay.

The fact that the college has the resources to put this program into action is a big indicator of the problem. There is no time limit on the program, but it caps out at $70,000 per student. With superfluous cash like that, why does Adrian need to charge such outrageous tuition? Perhaps it would be more helpful to their students to cut down on their initial cost than to make it up later in installments.

“We don’t expect a lot of Adrian students to (need) the program upon graduation,” Docking said. So, the idea is that an Adrian education is so superior that there is no way their graduates will be making subpar salaries.

A spectacular education won’t help, though, if there aren’t jobs available. It’s this perspective that Adrian seems to be failing to take into account. To people like Docking, the quality of the school justifies the cost (the college is ranked 19th in the Midwest, so here is where that premium tuition comes in), but these days the caliber of one’s education and job rarely correlate.

This comes back to proactivity in saving students money. Certainly, student debt is a major problem, not to be overlooked. However, if Adrian instead kept their students from becoming severely indebted in the first place by lowering their tuition costs, it would show more commitment to being part of the solution.

As it is, the proposal is more PR than philanthropy. At first glance, Adrian appears to be making a nearly unprecedented effort to support its graduates. But with just a little bit of digging, it becomes clear that their students are essentially paying through the nose for this support. Not only that, but they are then subject to being deemed worthy of receiving it.

The college’s tuition is up 23% from the 2008-09 school year. If they stop hiking their cost, Adrian’s grads might be able to repay their own loans.

Opinion columnist Katie Wian is an English junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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