Unaffordable public education

Kudos to regent Frank Berman for standing up for students last week.

The value of a University degree cannot be understated. Everyone has heard time and time again that a University graduate will make millions more throughout his or her lifetime than an individual without a degree, however, access to institutions of higher education is becoming increasingly difficult. What’s even worse, many students are faced with the harsh reality that they will simply not be able to afford a University degree.

The saddest part of this situation is that it is public education at issue. Public institutions steadily are moving toward a private model in which the majority of the cost falls on the shoulders of the students because of massive federal budget cuts and declining state funding, more and more institutions of higher educations are relying solely on tuition and fees to keep their engines running.

To compensate, students are increasing their pre- and post-collegiate debt. Each year more university students are taking out loans to cover the cost of their education, and these are middle-class students. Low-income students ” whose access to private loans is severely limited ” are simply being priced out of the game.

The average debt of a student who graduates in four years at the University is $22,125; for those who graduate in five years it is $25,904. (The average graduation rate for a student on the Twin Cities campus is a little more than six years.) Tuition and fees have increased 77 percent during the past five years. The student loan volume for the entire University system has shot up from $160 million to $330 million within this same time period. Kudos to regent Frank Berman for standing up for students at the University’s Finance and Operations Committee meeting last week.

Tuition and fees at the University are the fourth highest in the Big Ten. While it is true there will be much more opportunity for a graduate than a nongraduate, students should not have to borrow as much as they do in order to pay for a public education.