After the Milwaukee town hall on Feb. 16, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have continued to call for President Joe Biden to forgive $50,000 in student debt — something Biden insists he doesn’t have the authority to do.
The Democratic Party’s push for eliminating debt is not the solution to the growing student loan issue.
As a college president, I understand and see firsthand the sacrifices students make in order to pursue higher education.
Instead of transferring this debt to American taxpayers, we should be focusing on making higher education more accessible and affordable.
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Higher Education Act of 1965, the intent was to provide resources to college students.
During that time, education costs were low, leading to an increase in enrolment.
In return, that scenario helped stimulate the economy.
Over the years, we have seen the negative effects — students buried in debt they can’t afford, while the government has continued to make it easier for parents and students to take out loans.
Former Secretary of Education William Bennett forewarned us of this issue.
In an opinion piece published in The New York Times in 1978, Bennett said, "If anything, increases in financial aid in recent years have enabled colleges and universities blithely to raise their tuitions, confident that Federal loan subsidies would help cushion the increase … Federal student aid policies do not cause college price inflation, but there is little doubt that they help make it possible."
The question we should be asking is, how can we make higher education more affordable?
Currently, student debt exceeds $1.7 trillion and has been reported to be growing six times faster than our nation’s economy according to Education Data. Nearly 14 percent of our population — 45.3 million Americans — has student loan debts.
If legislation is implemented in Congress supporting President Biden’s proposal of $10,000 in loan forgiveness, NerdWallet estimates it could eliminate debt for approximately 15 million borrowers.
It will make only a small dent in student debt, with the average loan exceeding $30,000.
There is a caveat to Biden’s proposal that could disqualify some individuals from this loan forgiveness. At the town hall, President Biden said, "It depends on whether or not you got a private university or a public university."
Although there is uncertainty of what he meant by this statement, it could eliminate individuals with high-paying jobs who are working hard to pay off their debts.
President Biden’s proposal to eliminate $10,000 of debt wouldn’t be a strong economic stimulus. According to the Committee for a Responsible Budget, student debt cancellation would only increase cash flow by $90 billion per year at a cost of $1.5 trillion.
Rather, the committee advises that extending student deferrals during the pandemic would "generate most of the economic boost that would come from debt cancellation, but at only a small fraction of the cost."
Instead of looking for ways to eliminate the debts of individuals who accepted the risk of taking out loans, we need to create a more affordable option for current and future students.
Colleges and universities must get creative in how they deliver education and take the lead in driving costs down for students.
At Southeastern University (SEU) in Lakeland, Fla., where I serve as president, we have been intentional in tackling these issues of affordability and accessibility.
Due to this, the university has experienced exponential growth and received recognition by The Chronicle for Higher Education as the sixth-fastest growing master’s level university in the U.S.
SEU is providing affordable and accessible education at 175 partner sites in 40 states across the country.
Students in these programs not only have the benefit of earning degrees from an accredited institution at a discounted cost, but they also have the opportunity to study where they live and work.
We need to look for long-term solutions, rather than sticking a band-aid on this issue. It will take re-evaluating the format and costs of higher education.
Universities and colleges have to be intentional in focusing their efforts on meeting students where they are. It’s time to reinvent the higher education model.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the president of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the author of "Framework Leadership.'' As president of Southeastern University, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership and is also a founding member of the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern's president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and in the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber Foundation. Read Kent Ingle's Reports — More Here.
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