August 15, 2013 by Clarise McCants
Last week, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act into law, effectively guaranteeing potentially sky-high interest rates for future students. However, even though Congress made the wrong deal for students, student loan interest rates are really the symptom of a much larger disease. College costs too damn much! And, that’s the real issue affecting millions of Americans.
Over the last 70 years, annual tuition and fee growth typically has exceeded inflation, and now exceeds the median family income by almost double. These rising costs are a direct result of failures at the state, federal, and college levels.
For example, the primary cause for rising tuition at public colleges and universities is the decline in state funding for higher education. When states look for places to hack down their budgets they often cut higher ed first, because they know colleges can fill those gaps by raising tuition. This transfers the state’s shortfalls directly to students and their families. Further, when students can’t pay, they can access federal financial aid to help. But, available federal aid often can’t meet the financial needs of students, not only because of these rising costs, but also due to the expansion of poorly targeted programs—like higher education tax benefits for the rich—which waste resources that could be used on people who really need it.
Until these systems work more efficiently for students and lawmakers address high cost, we can’t even begin to address the college affordability crisis.
In the meantime, many of us still suffer. We have to hold off on life decisions, save less for retirement, end up with less income, and ultimately must navigate through life with the fear of default looming over our heads. Some of the supporters of the I AM NOT A LOAN campaign have shared their stories with us to illustrate that this crisis isn’t just about the $1 trillion in national debt. It’s a problem that affects the livelihoods of everyday people.