Government must do more to help parents, students shoulder cost of college

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David Delgado // The Daily Cougar

It’s no secret that college is expensive in the United States. The probability of post-graduation debt makes some students wonder how much of the tab they are expected to pick up.

Student loans are easy to obtain for any kind of student, but they aren’t always easy to pay back.

As the price of college continues to soar and jobs become scarcer, student debt is on the rise throughout the country. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, seven in 10 college seniors in 2012 had student debt, and the average amount was $29,400.

Many graduates also find out a bachelor’s degree doesn’t guarantee a job. So as those entering the workplace feel strangled by the pressure to pay off large amounts of debt, many are asking how they are supposed to make ends meet.

Although aid for students is out there, it often just isn’t enough to cover the costs. Some might argue that parents have a responsibility to start helping their kids more, but many parents aren’t capable, and some outright choose not to.

Students from poor families aren’t the only ones who are hurting hard in American colleges right now. Many students from middle-class families and even upper-class families are hurting from student loan debt because of federal aid policies.

Many dependent students are familiar with the Expected Family Contribution amount that is given after filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Maybe for some students, the amount of money under that little label might have seemed reasonable. But for many families, that number isn’t possible to reach, and many simply choose to ignore it.

According to FAFSA’s website, the EFC is “a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law.” However, the site also states that it is not the amount your family will have to pay, but rather a number used by the school to evaluate how much financial aid a student will receive. This means that for some schools, students can have a higher need for support depending on how aid is distributed.

Yet there is no federal regulation requiring parents to put any effort into financing their children’s education. This has led to many young adults being stuck with less aid because of a government that expects parents to help and parents who can’t or won’t help.

Filing as independent on FAFSA isn’t easy either, unless you are 24, married, have dependents or can prove yourself estranged from your parents. So I’m sorry to all young freshmen, but if you don’t fall into any of those categories, you might just be out of luck when it comes to obtaining more federal aid, regardless of how self-sufficient you are.

Communications junior Shariona Cochran believes the current system isn’t providing students enough aid.

“I personally get loans,” she said. “I’m going to have to pay for that based off of how much my mom makes. She doesn’t make a whole lot, but she makes enough to where I get one grant every semester. That’s maybe one class and what, a book?”

Perhaps parents don’t owe their children anything after they reach the age of 18, and perhaps taxpayers don’t owe the next generation a helping hand, but in a culture that stresses how important college is for success, we need to re-evaluate our options for investing in our future.

For the sake of maintaining and building on our country’s reputation as educated and innovative, we need to consider how we invest in our college graduates and how we stop the trend of crushing student debt.

Mechanical engineering junior Eduardo Mora said the government should have a heavy hand in fixing financial debt.

“I think the government should help in forcing the universities to reduce prices,” Mora said. “Everywhere else, education is not as self-destructive as in the United States. The U.S. has college graduates with debt up to their eyebrows; that can’t be good.”

Perhaps easy access to student loans has created a self-feeding problem. Universities may feel tempted to raise prices as student loans are available. Whatever the case, Mora is right. There needs to be more financial sympathy from our government and schools.

Although easy-to-obtain student loans may be a cause of rising costs, the solution does not lie in reducing loan access. The solution comes through more accountability for school spending, and perhaps a shift toward socialized higher education should be considered as well.

It’s time for the U.S. to make a change in how it provides college education. Student loans and small grants are strangling the growth of the middle class. Although the U.S. has some of the best colleges in the world, the costs of attendance is preventing too many from using their educations to succeed.

If America’s attitude toward socialized medicine is any indicator, socialized education is far from reach. But perhaps there is something to learn and adopt from European countries like Germany, where education costs are low and economic stability is high.

Whatever option Americans and future college students decide to pursue in the future, the current situation is not one that anybody should be happy with.

Opinion columnist Shane Brandt is a petroleum engineering junior and may be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

  • College costs have increased twelve-fold in the last 30 or so years. Nothing else in our economy has increased at that rate. Why is that? It’s not a difficult question, if you actually stop looking towards your uncle sugar (the govt) for assistance, and spend less than 5 minutes researching it.

    Ever since the govt started controlling/regulating the student loan industry, i.e. setting the loan guarantee amounts (similar to what it did with Fannie/Freddie in the housing mkt), the schools started raising tuition up to that amount. Then, the schools took this windfall and exponentially expanded their administration costs.

    We don’t need more govt handouts, we need to starve the beast.

    In the meantime, choose your major wisely. You will get zero sympathy from me, and anyone else who chose a difficult, but marketable major, when you whine for student loan forgiveness after wasting >5 years of your valuable time and (taxpayers) resources for that major everyone, including UH, knows is basically worthless. And I bet top dollar that these are the majors the vast majority of UH students are pursuing.

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