Loan proposal will devastate University

David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

Paying for student tuition can be daunting, adding unnecessary stress to an already-hectic semester for many students. At the University of Houston, many students are forced to take out federal or private student loans to cover the cost of tuition that they are unable to pay for themselves.

Businessweek.com recently released an article about a proposal by three Senate Democrats that would give heavy fines to universities for students who are unable to pay back their student loans after they graduate. According to the article, “one out of every seven borrowers with student loan debt falls behind on payments within three years.”

These universities would have to pay an almost equal percentage of fines back to the Department of Education, but community colleges and historically black colleges and universities would be exempt.

This proposal, if added to the Protect Student Borrowers Act of 2013, would devastate universities, including UH, and would worsen the problem of the high costs of higher education. It seems the national government is forgetting that students don’t come out of college with high-level, well-paying jobs, and that it takes time for an individual to make the ideal salary.

The Democrats’ proposal is regressive to an already-promising act that could relieve students’ concerns regarding student loans. If the University has to pay a hefty fine back to the Department of Education, then you would have to imagine it would have to cut back funding for other aspects at the school, such as already-struggling liberal arts programs, professors and scholarship funds for deserving students.

“I do not agree with the proposal because it will not solve the student debt crisis in America by punishing a university who would more likely cut funding or increase tuition fees in order to pay for the fines,” said political science senior Matthew Valenzuela. “I think that higher taxes on the top 1 percent and less spending on athletic programs such as basketball and football coaches’ salaries is a good combination in reducing the student loan debt crisis.”

Valenzuela isn’t the only student who shares this concern about the possible added proposal to the act. Petroleum engineering senior Zaki Ahmed had no idea about the proposal to begin with, which shows the lack of media coverage it is receiving. He is aware of the Student Loan Fairness Act, but disagrees with the Democrats on this and was appalled to hear about it.

“I think if students fall behind on their student loans, it should not be the university in jeopardy; a university’s job is to educate and not pay the bills for a student,” Ahmed said. “We spend so much money on nonsense already — we should incorporate fundings from other areas instead of ruining a prestigious university.”

The consequences for such an action could be deadly to universities that are already struggling with finding funds to cover what the state is cutting from their budget. Most funds come from private sources, such as monetary donations from alumni through fundraising call centers, such as the corporation RuffaloCODY, located in McElhinney Hall.

The exception of certain universities from this proposal is also unfair. No university should be excluded from having to suffer with huge budget cuts as a result of consistently paying fines. Either we’re all in it together, or none at all.

It’s understood that the fault can be placed on students. Many blame students for taking out high student loans that do not go toward only tuition and books, but also the cost of living and other miscellaneous things. However, the cost of living has greatly increased throughout the years, and every student’s situation is different. There are some who cannot afford to live close to a university and must rely on private assistance to allow them to live on campus. As UH students, we should be aware of the high costs to live in on-campus housing such as Cougar Place or Calhoun Lofts.

Students do not deserve to be thrown into the mess our national government is creating. Higher education should be a right, not a privilege, and the costs shouldn’t be miserably high. Instead of punishing universities and causing a bigger mess with the new problem of where to fill the gap for the missing funds, the Department of Education should invest in a different solution.

Opinion columnist Catalina Campos is an English literature senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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