Thursday, October 27, 2011

Student loan reform

While this blog isn't really intended to be a political blog, it is a receptacle for my stray thoughts.
So when I saw this tidbit on President Obama using an executive order to help new and recent graduates cut down the amount they owe on their student loans, I had two thoughts (actually, by the time I finish writing it's likely to be more than two thoughts).

First, the details:
the president would use his executive authority to expand the existing income-based repayment program with a “Pay as You Earn” option that would allow graduates to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for 20 years and have the rest of their federal student loan debt forgiven.
Thought 1:
I wish this had been an option for me.

While my student debt is not crushing (locked in around $120 per month) it does feel interminable: I'll be paying that for the next 28 or so years. I assume I didn't qualify for the "Pay as You Earn" option when I was in college ('02-05, grad '06-07), because no one ever told me about it. But I also don't feel like I'd ever heard of the option.

(This is a fairly major concern for me, because I definitely think that education and information are the two things most lacking in this country at the moment.

For example, people believe that cutting taxes to increase corporate profit can help the economy, and because they believe this to be true, they want it to happen; but the only reason they believe it is because someone(s) with the platform and the incentive to provide false or misleading information has chosen to abuse a bully pulpit. Those with the money [read: corporations and billionaires] have almost unilateral control over the education of the majority of Americans.

If I could do 1 thing to transform the country, it wouldn't be reforming the tax code or shattering the 2 party system: I would break up the major news corporations. I would enforce the [almost always waived] prohibition on a single corporation owning multiple outlets and multiple platforms. I would require news outlets to run prominent corrections when fact-checked by independent reviews and auditors like Media Matters.)

Thought 2:
About damn time.

I'm a little worried by the precedent, and by the question of who will hold those bills, but at this point, who really cares?

The cost of a first class education has far outpaced the growth in earning power that degree confers, and something has to be done. Personally, I'd prefer a world where we accept that not all learners are best served by a 4 year degree, where community colleges and trade schools do the major work of career educations, where the value of a degree is not so watered down that more and more fields expect graduate work for entry-level to mid-level positions.

Since that world is unlikely to develop in the next month or so, this is the next best solution: demand of those who are most likely to default (and, therefore, contribute nothing towards the cost of their education) a reasonable share of their earnings for a very long time (for most of them, longer than they were alive before they made the decision to take on the education debt).

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