GUEST VIEW: Take key steps to rein in student debt

The following editorial appeared Sunday in the Kansas City Star:

 

Congress has only one week to prevent interest rates on new federal student loans from doubling to 6.8 percent.

Lawmakers must act quickly. Now is the wrong time to reduce college accessibility and saddle students with the prospect of even higher debt after graduation.

The 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act, signed by President George W. Bush, reduced interest rates on federal subsidized Stafford loans for four years. Rates will double on July 1 unless Congress acts.

Fiscal conservatives note accurately that keeping that rates low will be costly — about $6 billion for a one-year extension. Lawmakers are haggling over how to recoup that amount from elsewhere in the budget. …

The debate over loan rates comes amid growing concern about college costs and rising student debt. …

But there is also no question something must be done about escalating college costs and debt. Many things, actually. To start with:

n Crack down on marketing practices that lure prospective students and parents into thinking that excessive debt is normal and easy to pay off. Schools should have to inform applicants in real-world terms of the consequences of their debt loads. …

n Make schools more accountable for student debt loads. Currently, there is little cause for colleges and universities to worry about the amount of debts their students are incurring. They receive their money regardless. Government should track student loan defaults, with the potential of penalties for schools responsible for large numbers. …

n Place more focus on timely college completions. High schools must do a better job of preparing students for college. Colleges must make spots available in required courses and extend resources to help students succeed. …

n Return to the egalitarian thinking that until recently made state colleges and universities much more affordable for low- and middle-income families. A college education has long been considered a social good, and one in which states were willing to invest much more generously than they are now. …

Burdensome student loans are a big part of escalating college costs. Public universities already have slashed expenses and found efficiencies. Making colleges across the spectrum more accountable for the debt loads of their students would motivate private colleges to do the same, as would greater awareness on the part of student borrowers.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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