Editorial Board, February to May 2012
- Scott Stanford, general manager
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Karen Massey, community representative
- Jeff Swoyer, community representative
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
Steamboat Springs During the next few weeks, Routt County communities will watch proudly as hundreds of local high school seniors collect their diplomas. Many of our graduating seniors quickly will turn their attention to post-secondary education and head off to college campuses across the country to begin the next phase of their lives this fall.
For many of them, college loan debt will mount quicker than their course credits. And if they’re like the average American college student who must borrow money to attend school, by the time they graduate, they will have racked up more than $25,000 in student loan debt. It’s estimated that 37 million Americans currently owe a total of $1 trillion in student loans.
Enter the political debate about government-subsidized student loan rates that flared last week. President Barack Obama spent part of the week visiting college campuses and hammering home the message that increasing student loan rates would have significant costs on the futures of graduates and the country. Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, agreed that the loan rates shouldn’t be allowed to double. Predictably, the parties disagree about how to pay the $6 billion cost associated with keeping the federally subsidized interest rate at 3.4 percent. That battle will continue to play out next week when Congress returns from its break.
While we’re thankful that Democrats and Republicans appear to agree that something must be done to preserve the lower interest rates, the issue has re-cast a spotlight on the troubling state of higher education in our country.
On average, college tuitions have tripled across the country since 1980. The story is no different here in Colorado, where tuition at the state’s flagship university will increase 5 percent next year, the smallest increase since the 2006-07 academic year. The rate increase at the Boulder campus was 19 percent in 2007-08 and has hovered between 8.5 and 9.5 percent per year since. At the same time, state funding for higher education has been cut 31 percent in the past two years alone, according to the Denver Post.
The impact of the escalating cost of a college education and the mounting debt faced by students is significant, and it has major ramifications on the national economy.
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, students who took out college loans say the debt impacts their career choices, when and if they can purchase a home and even delays when they might get married or start a family.
At the same time, we know the value of a post-secondary education. College graduates earn, on average, $20,000 per year more than those without degrees. College graduates also are more likely to be employed and happier in life.
But how long will that last statement prove to be true? When a college education becomes more expensive and less attainable, we all suffer. So while it’s appropriate and necessary that political leaders on both sides of the aisle appear committed to keeping student loan interest rates down, we need more than a Band-Aid to fix the state of higher education in Colorado and across the country.