How would free college impact students in West Virginia?

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Student loan debt in 2019 is the highest it’s ever been.

Student Loan Debt Clock

Student Loan Debt Clock


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Total Student Loan Debt: $1.6 trillion

Total U.S. Borrowers With Student Loan Debt: 44.7 million

Student Loan Delinquency Or Default Rate: 11.4% (90+ days delinquent)

Direct Loans – Cumulative in Default (360+ days delinquent): $101.4 billion (5.1 million borrowers)

Direct Loan In Forbearance: $111.1 billion (2.6 million borrowers)

Justice Hudson, like millions of Americans, is someone who is dealing with the hardships of repaying his student loans.

“A college education is a ticket out of poverty, so when the people that need it most are not able to access it, you have generations of people who decide not going to college because they can’t afford it.”

Justice Hudson

With the 2020 presidential election coming up, several candidates have voiced their support in free college tuition and canceled student debt.

Q & A with an expert:

John Deskins serves as Assistant Dean for Outreach and Engagement, Director of the Bureau of Business & Economic Research, and as Associate Professor of Economics in the College of Business & Economics at West Virginia University.

Q: What needs to be done in order to make free college happen?

A: We do a lot to subsidize education already, and maybe we should do more, but the notion of free college for everybody, you know, every economic policy of course has positives and negatives. Sometimes politicians will tell you their policies only have positives and no negatives, but I’m kind of skeptical of that. We believe that every policy has pros and cons. And so, while free college is going to be a benefit, it’s going to have a cost. And so is that cost going to come from more government borrowing? Right now the United States government owes very roughly 20 trillion to people all across the world in the form of U.S. government bonds that are bitter in the world.

Q: What can we do to enhance access to affordable college?

A: Colleges that have found themselves in this race to attract students. Colleges are making their dorms much, much nicer. I started college in 1996, which was not that long ago, but the dorms I lived in when I was in college were like an army barracks. Now we have these extravagant dorms that are so much more costly and we have these extravagant rock climbing walls and all this super fancy stuff. So we need to provide incentives for colleges to cut back on amenities and cost, and we also need to change our financial literacy.

Dr. Rodney P. Hughes is an assistant professor of higher education administration at West Virginia University. His areas of study include college access and affordability, labor economics, data use in education, and college and university governance.

Q: Would making college more affordable be more beneficial than making it completely free?

A: The idea of the blanket debt cancellation politically would be focusing on this sort of relatively disadvantaged group over others who maybe didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, or went to college for a semester or a year weren’t able to continue. Maybe have some debt but not to the largest amounts. That might be repaid to something like loan forgiveness or income based repayment. I might like to acknowledge to some degree, like yes, some people or many people might have debt balances, but also have gotten from their education like a reasonable ability to be able to repay that debt or the kind of earnings that are in line with that borrowing.

But then at the same time there might be similar students who are having other kinds of financial struggles that maybe didn’t go to college and don’t have that student loan debt but still have kind of an equal amount of financial struggle with like a variety of other issues.

So if we think about that what’s the economic impact of debt cancellation. Not to limit it to the students that have the debt, but we can think about there is evidence that for example people with higher student loan debt load delay buying a house or delay getting married or might make a particular career choices.

So minimizing some or reducing some of that debt load could increase consumer spending or increase home buying. Some of these other kinds of economic activities like that are seen to be valuable that stimulate other parts of the economy.

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