Dr. Ada Fisher: Lessons learned on student loans

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 18, 2011

President Obama and Congressí move to decrease the length of time students are obligated to repay federal financial aid ó thereby actually decreasing the amount owed ó is wrong.
As one who borrowed more than $50,000 to go to medical school with the caveat of repayment by service, I was distraught to find $9,000 per month deducted from my paychecks to repay the loans long after I fulfilled my service requirements. When I showed proof I had fulfilled my service obligation, I was told the fine print included a clause that says repayment-by-service would exist only if Congress appropriated the relevant funding, which it hadnít. Before we forgive other loans, Iíd like my more than $30,000 double payment returned.
A creeping future economic bubble is this nationís student loan burden of $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion. This is more than the entire citizen credit card debt. The Obama plan (which just speeds up that approved by Congress for 2014) encourages students to go into degree programs for which they are not likely to make enough money to repay these loans. They would pay only 10 percent of their after-tax dollars for no more than 20 years on these accounts, meaning they are likely to pay back less than 20 percent of their indebtedness; and it does nothing to demand higher educational financing overhauls at the state level. Such foolhardiness automatically adds this educational loan cost of $1 trillion-plus to the already significant national debt.
We are fast moving to a time when no one wants to be responsible for anything while increasingly wanting the government to bail out everyone for everything.
The government must stop increasing the Pell Grants and loans available if colleges are raising their tuition and costs to match this amount. The government should get out of the student loan business and return it to the banks, which despite their often tarnished reputations are more likely to be tough on borrowing and repayment. This would also remove colleges from their role of financial aid middle men, which could possibly make them sureties or guarantors since they might be required to back monies not repaid by students who default. The government should require full payment of all obligations and debts by those taking out the loans, for we cannot afford to do differently.
Students and parents need to ask what value they are getting for their education dollars. The average annual college cost at private institutions is $28,000. Per the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, curriculums at public, military and historically black colleges and universities are likely to be more substantial than those found elsewhere. ěCripî courses and some liberal arts majors often allow graduates to obtain a degree without the rigor found in those majoring in science, mathematics and liberal arts such as English or a foreign language.
The present student loan forgiveness scheme should be rescinded. Student responsibility for debts incurred is a must, as should be a demand for progress toward a meaningful degree. No student with less than a 2.0 on a 4.0 scale should be eligible for any federal financial assistance and no student with less than a 2.5 should receive a Pell Grant. Why not forgive debts for those students borrowing for their education maintaining a 3.0/4.0 average or graduating with honors? This performance requirement is measurable and puts the responsibility on the student to qualify for financial aid. This also gives us students who will study to avoid debts rather than float unfocused through college in the nebula of economic uncertainty.

Dr. Ada Fisher lives in Salisbury.