Carney leads roundtable discussion on student debt
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 17:09
In a roundtable discussion on Wednesday regarding student loans, Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) said college has become increasingly unaffordable, making the “American Dream” less attainable by forcing students to face massive amounts of debt upon graduation.
“I’m a firm believer that one of the things that makes our country so great is the belief, at least, that there’s an opportunity for everybody,” Carney said. “If you work hard, play by the rules, you get a good education and you move up in life. At a time when [education] is more important than ever, it is also less affordable than ever.”
Carney spoke regarding college tuition costs at the Bear Library, inviting college students, experts and a representative from Clarifi Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware to discuss debts students incur from taking out loans.
The average amount of student loan debt for 2011 graduates is $26,600, according to American Student Assistance.
Carney, who mostly listened during the roundtable, said he sees a lot of value in programs that are underestimated within Delaware, such as the Student Excellence Equals Degree program through Delaware Technical Community College or the Inspire Scholarship at Delaware State University.
He said the things he and his team had heard while on the road or within the forums they have held on the subject will likely influence the type of legislation Carney will advocate in Washington.
Senior Eric Hastings shared with the crowd the story of his path to the university. Hastings, a first-generation college student from Laurel, Del., said he wanted to make it clear people in situations similar to him need more help in order to be able to avoid drowning in debt after graduation.
“I firmly believe in a solid foundation in any American process and especially our education system,” Hastings said. “It is the saving grace of many who come from almost nothing.”
As a “voice” of these people, Hastings said more assistance needs to be given to those who cannot afford college.
Eric Best, a graduate of the university who has written extensively about student debt, said one of the main problems with the current student loan situation is student loans have become so easy to receive.
The deep debt students find themselves in makes them “indentured,” working for years and years to pay off the education that got them the very job they are now using to try to eventually break even.
Policies enacted in as far back as the 1940s are currently affecting the debt crisis, Best said, as they have turned the higher education system into a competition with universities trying to attract the wealthiest families.
“What this has become is an arms race,” Best said. “Students are becoming much more interested in, ‘What is in this for me?’ and that creates a relentless pressure on universities to provide amenities that students want, and it also creates a relentless pressure on the government to continue to allow easy access to funding.”
Hastings said he would like to see a college financial awareness program added to university curriculums nationwide as a way to provide valuable information to students who may have not gone to high schools with sufficient availability of such information.
The mandatory First Year Experience course could be converted to a much more insightful and useful class, Hastings said, if moderations were made to make it more of a required financial literacy course. He said he believe this would be a far bigger asset to students who are just entering college.
“The FYE class would be a perfect opportunity for colleges to increase our learning about how to deal with future loans,” Hastings said. “But instead this topic is tossed aside for more trivial things, such as how to get along with your roommate, where to eat and how the bus system works. They have really smart people, and they’re just teaching us to get along with each other.”
Raequan Jones, a student from Delaware State University, said being a minority does not help the student loan situation he finds himself in. Jones said that because he paid out-of-state tuition for DSU during his first year, his loan debt is currently at $38,000 and counting. Jones also said he believes education is overly costly, but it is nearly impossible to get a proper job without one.
“Students will do anything to receive an excellent education, even if it does come with being $40,000 to $50,000 in debt after graduation,” Jones said. “It’s really a shame.”