YOUR OPINION: Student loan forgiveness

Dan Tschirgi, Lohman

Dear Editor,

The president's plan for student loan forgiveness has many concerns beyond $300 billion to $600 billion in unappropriated deficit spending unless that's no longer a problem like it was for Trump's $20 billion border plan.

The current system of public loans for higher education, many of them for public-supported colleges and universities, has allowed costs to rise at rates higher than inflation for many years. When President Obama brought the student loan system entirely under the federal government and declared that college is a right and will rectify poverty, the money really began to flow more freely. The colleges and universities were happy that enrollment rose along with income. Back when a prospective student had to walk into a bank and apply for a student loan, it was more comparable to the real world of lending where a loan is given for something of real value that will be paid back with interest. Incidentally my recollection is that the interest rates through the bank were lower then.

It is important to keep the discussion on total costs of higher education, not just the portion the student pays. Why have total costs risen so dramatically, as steeply as health care costs? No one seems to have an answer. From personal experience, engineering school costs from 2014-19 in Missouri rose at least 60 percent over five years (not counting room and board). I believe there is a state law limiting tuition to a 5 percent increase per year. Costs increased by 12 percent per year stealthily through "fees" and other devices. We have a state auditor who could investigate this, but universities seem to operate in a parallel universe, immune from real scrutiny or auditing. That auditing could even gather data on which degrees do not result in salaried jobs and questions such as whether an expensive division of inclusion, diversity and equity has resulted in more inclusion, diversity and equity.

The Legislature needs to step up and fund infrastructure for state colleges and technical schools, but not for frivolous curriculum. We need electricians, mechanics, medical professionals, scientists, teachers, serous musicians and artists, accountants, engineers, yes even lawyers, etc. every bit as much as we need great elementary and secondary education. But control the costs and don't give loans without collateral in the form of potential careers.

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