I’m a college teacher, so it pains me to say this: the cost of college is out of control. The total bill for tuition, fees, and room and board at a four-year public university has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Over the same time period, entry-level salaries for college graduates have increased by less than 50 percent, which means that those degrees take longer than ever to pay off. If you want to know why Millennials are waiting longer than ever to get married, have kids, buy homes, and save for retirement, it’s not because they’re lazy or don’t want to start families: it’s because they’re spending their 20s and 30s paying off their student loan debt.
We’ve hit the point where only the wealthy can afford to send their kids to college without taking on crippling six-figure debt. At the best colleges in the country, there are more students from families in the top one percent of incomes than students from families in the bottom 40 percent of incomes. Education is the greatest engine of upward mobility in American history, but right now, it’s being denied to millions of hard-working, talented people across the country simply because their parents don’t make enough money.
If we’re going to rebuild an economy and a government that works for the rest of us, rather than the ultra-wealthy, we need to invest in education. We need to elect representatives who see college students as citizens and future leaders, not bank loan customers.
We need to massively expand federal higher education grants and low-interest lending programs, so that poor and middle-class families can send their kids to college. This includes investing in grants and loans for students in career and technical programs. We also need to forgive the student loan debt of borrowers who were ripped off by predatory lenders. We need to incentivize the adoption of open educational resource, which can help reduce the heavy burden of college textbook prices.
We need to work with state governments to control the rising costs of public education. States can freeze tuition and allow for more credits to transfer between less-expensive two-year colleges (where costs have only risen about 20 percent in the last two decades) and four-year colleges.
The rising cost of college presents a moral dilemma: should our government serve the interests of the big banks that make a killing on student loan debt, or the poor and middle-class families that want to send our next generation of citizen leaders to college? I’m running for Congress because I think the answer is clear.