Editorial, Opinion

OPPOSING VIEWPOINTS: Our take on student loan debt

Entering college should be an equalizing opportunity for high school graduates. Students look to colleges to provide them with the skills they need to lead successful, independent lives after graduation. But when some of them are forced to pay off massive student loans, leading a successful, independent life is hard to do.

The student loan debt in the U.S. passed the $1 trillion mark in late 2011, and it has only become clearer that the loan debt will continue to grow out of control. There are programs in place to help students tackle college costs. Scholarships and grants offer monetary aid to students and unlike loans, they do not have to be repaid.

Government programs, such as the Pell Grant Program, have provided some relief for students and families in need of monetary assistance. In the 2010–11 academic year, about 9.3 million students in the U.S. received the Pell grant with an average reward of $3,833, according to an article in The Daily Free Press on Oct. 22.

Boston University spokesman Colin Riley said to the Free Press that about 3,000 BU students received Pell grants in the 2011–12 academic year.

More large-scale programs, such as student loan forgiveness, introduce an alluring opportunity to help relieve college graduates of years of loan repayment. However, the proram raises some concerns about how the federal government would handle loan forgiveness. Removing debt forgiveness may encouraging debt collection as opposed to refinancing, which can create a slippery slope. To some extent, loan forgiveness can help college graduates move forward without crippling debt — perhaps even achieve financial stability — but the question of where to draw the line remains. Even U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), who introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, said it will be little more than a Band-Aid. The provisions may help several low-income borrowers, but it does not necessarily mean it will help all student borrowers.

However, when it comes to assisting students financially, the emphasis should be placed on universities. Universities should play the largest role in dishing out aid to students in the form of scholarships and grants.

BU offers a number of institutional scholarships and grants. In the 2010–11 academic year, 8,557 students received BU scholarships with an average reward of $22,125.  However, with tuition at BU on the rise, the university should do more to assist its students, whether it involves cutting tuition or offering more aid to accepted students.

Boston University increased tuition 3.79 percent for the 2012–13 academic year. President Brown announced that the average undergraduate financial aid award was projected to increase 5 percent for the 2012-13 school year.

While universities such as BU focus on research and redevelopment, as well as other resources for students, what matters most is that students can afford the education they want. Financial aid at colleges and universities have struggled to keep up with college costs for years, and institutions should address this by raising more money for scholarships and grants.

With help from federal programs, the country should see college loan debt shrink, but change is ultimately at the hands of the institutions themselves.

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