One of upcoming battles with Congress that President Obama is facing is over the interest rates on student loans.
The White House announced Friday that it is launching a major campaign to keep rates on federal Stafford loans at their current levels – 3.4 percent – beyond July 1, when by law they are set to double.
The rate change would impact an estimated 7.4 million students, who would each see an additional $1,000 in debt per year at the higher rates, according to the administration.
Which Republicans seem to think is just fine. In fact, some of them have been making statements about how they didn’t need student loans, so why should today’s students? Well, for one thing, things have changed since they – and I – went to college.
Representative Virginia Foxx seems to think that it’s still the same, and that college students are irresponsible for borrowing money:
FOXX: I went through school, I worked my way through, it took me seven years, I never borrowed a dime of money. He borrowed a little bit because we both were totally on our own when we went to college, totally. […] I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that.
Frankly, I doubt she’s ever looked at the cost of a college education today. I have. The reason I say that, is because she would be in for a very rude awakening if she tried getting a college education without loans today. Now, I’m slightly younger than she is, so my college years were in the mid-70’s. You know what? Back then, working full-time for a year at a minimum wage job would have paid for a year at a state college. That’s tuition, room, board, books, and fees, and I mean after taxes on the income. Today? It wouldn’t even cover 2/3’rds the cost, and that’s without paying taxes on the income!
I looked up the costs for today’s state colleges in my state. Just so you can get an idea, the cost I had was something on the order of $3000 a year. Right now, it runs just over $21,000, or 7 times higher. Now here’s the other difference between my time in college and now: Financial aid. Back when I went to college there were the “Basic Educational Opportunity Grants,” from the federal government, New York’s “Tuition Assistance Program,” and, if you did well on a competitive exam, a Regent’s Scholarship. If you were from a poor family (I was), and had done well on the exam (I did), the amount you would receive would amount to enough to pay for that year of college. I also worked part-time, which enabled me to have something resembling a social life, as well as buy various books and class materials that weren’t covered by the grants and scholarships. So, if I hadn’t had to take an extra semester, I would have left college without owing a dime. As it was, I came out owing a nominal amount which was paid off within two years.
Now, today? Those programs either don’t exist anymore, or their successors don’t even come close to covering the cost of a college education. Work your way through college? It’s going to take a lot longer than 7 years, and no, there aren’t a lot of jobs that a non-college graduate is going to find which will enable them to not only live, but sock away enough to pay for college.
So it doesn’t surprise me that young people these days graduate with heavy debt loads. It’s also why I have no patience with people like Representative Foxx. Great, fine, she went through college “back in the day” without borrowing money. Hey, so did I for 4 years. But you know what? Back then, college was affordable. These days, it’s not. Holding yourself up as an example without understanding that just shows that the education you paid for wasn’t very good.