Rising college costs, the amount of student loan debt (now more than credit card debt) and the need of most students to work part- or full- time jobs while in school has made college affordability an important topic this year and last. According to the Filutowski Law Firm, which specializes in individual rights,
“Tuition at public colleges is significantly on the rise due to state budget cuts. California experienced the highest raise in tuition. See The New York Times, October 26, 2011. According to the College Board, average in-state tuition at public universities this year is $8,244, up from $7,613 last year; with room and board, the average total charge is $17,131, up from $16,162 last year. But the averages mask enormous variation from state to state: the University of New Hampshire’s tuition is more than $13,500, compared with $2,600 in Puerto Rico and $4,100 in Wyoming. At private nonprofit four-year colleges, the average tuition is $28,500 this year, a 4.5 percent increase on last year’s $27,265. With room and board, the average total charges are $38,589, up from $36,971 last year. And at community colleges, the average tuition and fees are $2,963, up 8.7 percent from last year’s $2,727.”
These numbers are scary, and some of the more recent articles on the student debt crisis focus on the collateral damage done to the parents and families of college students.That’s why students, college officials, faculty members, interest groups, and others across the country have declared this National College Affordability Week, creating a national discussion on the problem of high college costs and what to do about them. Rallies, online discussions and chats, and meetings will be held all week to generate positive discussions about the problem of student debt and how to resolve it.
One of the primary organizers of the events this week is the group Young Invincibles, which first began as an attempt to interject the voices of 18-34 year olds in the health care debate, but has since grown to embrace many issues relevant to the needs of this demographic, and is dedicated to “making sure that our perspective is heard wherever decisions about our collective future are being made.” To support this effort, they are focused on “cutting-edge policy research and analysis, sharing the stories of young Americans, campaigns designed to educate, inform and mobilize our generation and advocacy intended to change the status quo.”
One of the activities sponsored by Young Invincibles is a Facebook video challenge. Students are encouraged to create their own videos answering the question, “What is the one thing you wish your school knew about the rising cost of college?”
Other activities include:
- Get R’ Done: A Twitter campaign publicizing all the many problems created by college costs that students are trying to handle, including loan repayment, being underfunded for school, confusion about different kinds of aid and loans, etc. occurred yesterday, but the thread will be ongoing. Tweet your story to @YI_Care and @DebtCrisisOrg to join the conversation!
- Facing the Music: Join a Google+ Hangout session this Thursday with members of the Young Invincibles staff and the folks from Student Debt Crisis, to learn about ways to understand and manage your student loan debt. If you don’t want to join the Hangout, you can send your questions via Twitter at #YoungAmerChat or @YI_Care.
- Can You Hear Me Now?: Another Twitter activity, this one focusing on how to move beyond discussion and toward specific actions, will take place on Friday. Participants are urged to tweet their ideas and suggestions to politicians and college officials.
How Much Good Will This Do?
National College Affordability Week is a great idea. It gets a conversation going, and hopefully conversation will generate new ideas. But is talk enough?
Sadly -maybe cynically- I don’t think so. This is an election year, and college costs are one of the biggest footballs currently lobbed around debate halls. Not only do both presidential candidates propose different plans for funding college, but they differ on the student loan debt crisis. According to The Huffington Post, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said that “he wouldn’t promise more federal money to students and families paying for college and not to expect the government to forgive student loan debt,” and VP candidate Paul Ryan’s budget will eliminate Pell grants for up to one million students.
By contrast, President Obama already proposed a solution to student loan debt last November, and it became effective in May 2012. The plan features,
- Consolidation of all of an individual student’s federal loans or loans received through the Family Education Loan Program into a single loan.
- Lower interest on the single loan.
- Loan forgiveness after 20 years as long as the student pays 10% of his or her annual income toward the debt every year.
The differences in these two candidates’ positions on student loans and loan debt are clear. All the talk in the world, all the tweets from students and graduates, won’t change the fact that the outcome of the student loan crisis is going to hinge almost exclusively on who wins the election. That means that student participation in this election is even more crucial than usual. Contact your congressional representatives, work on behalf of the campaign of your choice, and share information in order to make your voice heard.