The Burden of debt

President Obama’s new student loan payment plan is too small of a Band-Aid to solve high tuition costs.

Elizabeth Ireland

IâÄôm three semesters into my undergraduate education. IâÄôm also already in debt.

The fact that IâÄôm one of millions with the same problem does not make it okay. The number of people with student debt should not be a justification for it, and higher education shouldnâÄôt be synonymous with student debt.

Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled his new loan repayment plan. He talked about the fact that the average student debt is now $24,000, and that student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever. His plan will lower the maximum required payment on federal student loans to 10 percent of discretionary income, and remaining debt will be forgiven after 20 years. His plan will go into effect in 2012.

ItâÄôs a great step in the right direction. However, the real problem is not being addressed. The reality is that tuition is so high that few students can realistically expect to seek higher education without dealing with financial consequences years down the line. The new plan is a quick fix, and only for those with specific types of loans. It doesnâÄôt solve the real problem, which is the outrageous âÄî and still rising âÄî cost of tuition.

According to College Board, tuition and fees at American public colleges rose over 8 percent this year alone. At the University of Minnesota, it rose 5 percent, the smallest increase in tuition in 12 years.

ItâÄôs not a mystery why tuition continues to rise. Public institutions like the University will always be affected by the fluctuation of funding from the state. That funding is dependent upon taxes, and taxes are dependent on what people earn. The lack of stability in the stateâÄôs budget leads to an instability in the UniversityâÄôs budget.

In addition to this problem, enrollment is rising. The University plans to admit about 1,000 more students in the upcoming year. The demand of incoming students is stretching the UniversityâÄôs resources further, causing the burden on the state to be even higher. This leads to a possible solution: Public institutions like the University should be less dependent on state funding in order to maintain a manageable tuition fee.

With a more stable supply of funding, the University could stabilize the cost of tuition. According to the Oregonian, the University of Oregon relies on state funding for only 7 percent of its operating budget, relying instead on private funding. Because of this, its budget does not fluctuate along with the stateâÄôs.

These days, many public institutions are struggling to make ends meet. Private funding is a solution that doesnâÄôt place the burden on the backs of students. ItâÄôs a compromise that few would be thrilled with, but action needs to be taken.

There is no perfect solution to the uphill battle students face when paying for college. ObamaâÄôs new loan payment plan will help a significant number of people who are struggling to keep up with their student debt, but it is certainly not a cure-all.

To deal with the problem at its most basic level, the University should attempt to be less dependent on state funding. A more stable flow of funds would mean a more stable tuition price, and possibly even reduce tuition in the long run.

The word âÄústudentâÄù should not be synonymous with âÄúdebt-holder.âÄù