Sun-Sentinel: Deeper problem for student debt than oversight

By Kathy Mizereck

Responding to a rise in debt incurred by college students who must borrow to obtain an education, your editorial (Aug. 27) argues the only answer to reducing the debt level and the corresponding default rate on those loans is more oversight.

Additional red tape does not represent a solution to an issue prevalent at all colleges — not just career colleges.

Part of the bigger picture includes the fact that the U.S. Department of Education gets back 95 cents of every dollar it loans, plus interest. The lender, based on student qualifications, determines the amount of loans.

Students at career colleges usually have little or no family contribution to their education and, thus, tend to borrow more regardless of the cost of the program. We counsel students about debt, but have no control over ultimate spending.

In Florida, more than 370,000 students annually chose to attend career colleges or train for new jobs — a population that would cost the state university system an estimated $1.6 billion to educate. Further, career colleges receive no direct taxpayer support, but pay $131 million in local, state and federal taxes.

Because we do not take a state subsidy, the average tuition at Florida career colleges is higher than that of public schools, but is still about half that at private, nonprofit institutions.

Most of our students are hardworking adults who hold jobs and support a family. Many of our students qualify for and borrow more.

We believe that lending rules must be addressed for all institutions and implemented evenly across the board so all providers of higher education can focus on serving students.

Kathy Mizereck is the executive director of Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges in Tallahassee.

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