Education made affordable

Congress examining bills that lower cost of college

By Laura Higley

After graduating from Flagler College in the spring of 2007, Stephanie Snyder will have incurred over $14,000 in student loans, and dreads the debt that looms ahead.

“I feel pressured to find a good job right away, so I can pay it all off,” Snyder said. “Throughout my whole college career, I have always been conscious of my debt, which at times can add a lot of extra strain and stress.”

Relief could be in sight for college students like Snyder, who are sinking in debt. According to The Wall Street Journal, Congress has been pushing to pass a host of bills aimed at making higher education more affordable.

“I’m happy that President Bush and Congress have recognized that something must be done to make college education more accessible and to remove the financial obstacles that deter many students from pursuing a bachelor’s degree or advanced degrees,” said Chris Haffner, director of financial aid at Flagler College.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Congress has been looking for ways to slash loan rates, tie repayment to graduates’ income, encourage students to borrow directly from the government, sweeten grants for less-affluent scholars and improve disclosure about loan terms to students and their families.

“I’m skeptical of how much the government can help college students,” senior Tommy Romano said. “The government isn’t effectively managing the limited education funds they do have. They are investing so much money into simply getting kids to actually stay in school that they are neglecting those students who are trying to pursue a higher education.”

According to The New York Times, the cost of tuition is rising much faster than the incomes of those carrying the debt.

“I feel that it is almost impossible for college alumni to be great contributors in society once they graduate, because entry level jobs are paying so little,” Romano said. “The amount of student debt is increasing, but the income isn’t growing with it.”

According to Sallie Mae Corporation, financial aid administrators around the country have been voicing support for the new Federal Family Education Loan Program. The program intends to save students and their families money through lower fees and interest rates. Through services such as loan counseling and early college awareness programs, FFELP plans to form a relationship between the borrower and the loan servicer from the beginning of the student’s college career.

“Increasing maximum grant amounts and changing the eligibility requirements so that more students qualify for them would be ideal. Reducing student loan interest rates and making repayment easier is absolutely necessary,” Haffner said. “Encouraging college grads to pursue public-service and teaching jobs with incentives like forgiving or repaying their student loans is an excellent idea. If they are to be effective, though, the incentives have to be substantial, not tokens of our appreciation.”

With all the discussion about more affordable college education, burdened students could see relief on the way.

“Debt is scary. It seems that you can’t get anywhere in life these days without acquiring some amount of debt,” senior Lisa Toy said. “Sometimes it feels like I am going to have to work forever just to pay off the debt I have obtained in college.”

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