Students Restless Over Student Loan Reform
Special to Informer | , Jasmine Muthleb | 12/10/2012, 9:57 a.m.
In the summer of 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported student loan debt reached a trillion dollars. At the same time, the job market for college graduates remained stagnant, leaving loans unpaid and student debt rising.
Majiah Mcgraw, a junior Spanish major at Howard University, has seen first-hand, the effects of student loan debt.
"My mom is still paying back student loans and I wonder if I am digging the same hole for myself. I will probably be paying my loans back for the rest of my life," she said.
President Barack Obama believes in decreasing student debt so more people have access to higher education as a means to stimulate the economy. The president implemented the "Pay As You Earn" program by executive order in October 2011, which caps federal student loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income. Obama also successfully battled with Congress to keep government subsidized student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent.
During the Democratic National Convention in September, Obama announced his hopes to "work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next ten years." Former President Bill Clinton applauded Obama's program saying, "it means no one will ever have to drop out of college again for fear they can't repay their debt. This will change the future for young America."
John Davis, a professor of education at California State University, Dominguez Hills, described Obama's reforms as "revolutionary."
Dr. Virginia C. Hathaway, executive director of Young Black Scholars, a college preparatory program for high school students, is also excited about Obama's reforms stating that, " disadvantaged minority students will have increased opportunities to attend college at a more affordable cost."
Mary Bingham, director of financial aid at the University of Southern California, has great hopes now that Obama has been re-elected.
"I hope it continues going in the same direction. The pay as you earn program is really good in my opinion and the loan forgiveness program," she said.
Bingham, who has seen a positive reaction in students since Obama's reforms, added that "students are more confident in what they want to pursue."
To continue in the right direction, Bingham hopes that "efforts to make students know what they are taking on by borrowing money will increase".
The Project on Student Debt, a nonprofit independent research and policy organization, recently released its seventh annual report titled," Student Debt and the Class of 2011." The report surveyed " the cumulative student loan debt of recent graduates from four-year public and private nonprofit colleges," and concluded that an estimated two-thirds (66 percent) of college seniors who graduated in 2011 had an average student load debt of $26,600."
In contrast to Obama's approach, during the 2012 presidential campaign former Massachusetts Gov. Romney favored student's borrowing money from their parents or "shopping for colleges". In August while campaigning in New Hampshire, Romney was asked by a St. Anselm's student about his plans toward the student loan debt crisis. He responded with, "what I want to do, is give you a great job so you'll be able to pay it back yourself. And I want to get the government off your back so you can keep more of what you earned."
While Peter Morici, an economist and professor of international business at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business, blames the students themselves for making financially impractical decisions, Brandon Dean, a junior political science major at Howard has been proactive in the fight to not let loans keep students from returning to school. While serving during the 2011-2012 academic year as president of the Howard University Student Association, Dean successfully helped students stay find ways to stay enrolled in school, who could not afford to pay.
"How comfortable does it make people feel when a loan is like a marriage, a lifelong commitment," Dean asked." People come who cannot financially afford it, and students only worry about how to pay and not being a scholar."
Meanwhile, Malon Murphy, a senior at Howard is feeling the pressure due to her upcoming graduation.
"If I can't find a job after college or if I end up with a job that does not require my degree . . . I will be in the same place I was before I went to school but now in debt," she said.
Jasmine Muthleb is a junior journalism major at Howard University.