State and federal policies made college possible - cuts could put it out of reach for students like me
By Brynn Williams
Graduating high school is an exciting but stressful rite of passage. One of the hardest parts of senior year is going through the college process. Picking a school that fits you is important. I’m thrilled to be attending Kent State University in the fall where I plan to study global communications. I’m glad Ohio invested to create great public universities like Kent.
But money is where it gets tricky. Paying for college can put a lot of stress on families. I have first-hand experience with this, since my family is worried about how to afford my tuition, room and board and how I’ll pay it back after I graduate.
President Trump and Congress gave huge tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations and now it looks like they will pay for them on the backs of college students like me. President Trump’s budget call for eliminating subsidized loans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Subsidized loans help increase overall graduation levels, which is good for employers and the economy. They also help low-and middle-income students. More than 242,240 Ohio students use them, including me. While I’m in school these loans won’t accrue interest, so I’ll graduate with less debt. For families that cannot pay for college completely, these loans help fill the gap. The Trump administration plans to completely eliminate this program, costing students $23.4 billion over 10 years. That means more graduates with more debt struggling to keep their heads above water in an economy where more and more jobs are low-wage. Due to chronic underfunding of higher education, Ohio has some of the most expensive public colleges in the nation.
Loans are part of the way I’m paying for college. And once I’ve graduated, I’ll have to pay them back. Past policy makers created smart plans that make paying back debt more manageable. One of these is public service loan forgiveness. It forgives loans to qualified borrowers who make 10 years of on-time payments and work in public service. Many public professions require at least a bachelor’s degree but pay modestly. This program lets people pursue careers that help their communities without being over-burdened by loan payments. The Trump budget proposes eliminating it. If his administration does so, it might make college students like me second guess working in public service.
The situation isn’t any better at the state level. Ohioans have higher rates of indebtedness and default than residents of other states. This is especially true for people of color, women, low-income people and seniors. Ohio’s weak oversight of loan servicers, the entities that manage loans, allows them to prey on student borrowers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fielded almost 1,500 student loan-related complaints from Ohio, more than half for “dealing with your loan servicer or lender.” The state could improve things for student borrowers by requiring that all servicers apply for licenses and by creating an office that tracks servicers and addresses borrower complaints.
Every person, no matter their income, deserves the right to an affordable education. And historically, America created public universities, Pell Grants, and other systems to make sure more people could get the education our economy needs them to have. Now it sometimes seems like state and federal policymakers are conspiring against students like me. We just want to get an education so we can pursue our careers, gain financial independence and contribute to our communities. If Trump’s cuts go through and Ohio continues to inadequately support student borrowers and public colleges, many students could decide not to head to college. We’re told time and again that a good education is important for job opportunities. We know that employers want us to have degrees. Cuts to programs that make college possible for low-income families will rip these chances away from us and possibly deprive the world of great doctors, teachers, business leaders or even a future president.