Instead of Student Loans

The number of students and families who have taken out education loans has spiked over the last few years. The number of loans taken out from private institutions has spiked even more. Student loans are serious business not only in terms of how many there are (even Sallie Mae has been one of the nation’s largest student lender) but also in other ways. Student loans are usually not written off under bankruptcy laws, the way credit card debts can be, for example. They are very difficult to shake, and in most cases aren’t at all. A reader might say a student loan is a debt like any other an ought to be repaid, and that is true. An yet in light of emerging evidence it seems very harsh. Student loans can eat up an undue share of a working person’s salary. They can go on for years and years making it difficult for an individual to buy a home, take vacations, or buy a better car. Because monthly payments can be large in relations to salaries, repayment has turned out to be difficult for most, and for whatever reason they have kept quiet. Alan Collinge has stopped being quiet, for years he has run a website to describe his struggles and what he’s trying to do about it. In 2007 he founded a political action committee with the same name in order to better fight for a change in bankruptcy laws. He advocates limits on how and for how long lenders can pursue debtors. It is a change obviously opposed by institutions like Sallie Mae and others who are able to profit from these loans.
Congress is often asked to intervene and pass new laws that will be fairer to students. Other efforts revolve around making it easier to borrow money. But is that the right approach?
When one considers that the students who need loans to either obtain or pursue their education come from either the lower or middle class, the issue of equality does factor in. Is the focus on loans the right emphasis? Oughtn’t it to be on affordable education? Not that long ago, the percentage of those borrowing for an education was quite small. Over the decades it has steadily increased in order to keep up with the increase in the costs of colleges and universities. While the institutions have made a case for their increases, the consequences of such high costs are not confronted. If we seriously tackled these consequences, if we resolved to ease them, to lessen the disparity they create, then we might be able to see more clearly about what to do with or about student loans. For one thing they wouldn’t be as numerous, and while that may not suit the short term interest of certain private firms, it may strengthen the educational framework and make us a stronger nation in the long run.