Financial Aid Viewpoints: Help or Burden?

Megan Hackbarth

The Chronicle of Higher Education, an industry journal, is one of many outlets that have been covering the recent events surrounding Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’s comments on Financial Aid and the burden it places upon students.

College tuition has been steadily skyrocketing for years and has no stop in sight. Financial aid programs from the federal government, provides low- and middle-income families with opportunities to attend higher education. As ironic as it sounds, many representatives and DeVos claimed, federal financial aid may contribute to year-by-year rising tuition and the debt burden that students carry years after they leave college.

During the Federal Student Aid Training Conference, DeVos mentioned statistics of only one in four borrowers start to pay off debt and interest from student loans. The nation has a 1.5 trillion-dollar debt in federal student-loans which are held by about 45 million borrowers.

Besides the perspective given from DeVos, the Director of Financial Aid at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) Nick Valdivia, felt there may be other reasons for colleges raising their rates.

“I believe the general increase in cost of living drives up to cost of higher education.  As institutional operational costs increase, more faculty, staff, increasing wages, increasing costs of goods, the demand for additional funding to provide students with their education increases. This coupled with the Federal and State governments slashing funding to higher education and diverting it to other state costs, is what results in higher educational costs,” Valdivia said.

DeVos said the student-loan programs not only bury students, but also taxpayers, because it is “stealing from future generations.” Colleen Campbell, associate director for postsecondary education with the Center for American Progress said, DeVos did not mention any possible ways of reducing loan debt.

Valdivia said, “I believe investing in our educational system with more funding is of national interest.  Either through diverting funds from other areas of our national budget or increasing our budget (taxes). Because the current divide in our political system, I don’t see any major strides being made on this front, as it takes bi-partisan agreement. However, ideologically, the two parties see the solution very differently, thus, coming to agreement is going to be very challenging.”

The soon-to-be- divided Congress has an important role in introducing and voting on future federal policy of financial aid and initiatives that could improve the situation. However, it is unlikely any new federal policy that would improve the overall Financial Aid situation for students would be passed soon, Valdivia said.

“I think the increase in tuition costs is reflective of the state of the economy. Private colleges do not receive government funding, which may also play a factor,” said Victoria Kuang, current student at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Many researchers such as Jason Delisle, researcher of higher education and student loans at the American Enterprise Institute rebut DeVos’ viewpoint saying there was no evidence to support DeVos’ claim. Other scholars researched the claim and failed to come with a reason. Fisherman said the claim was a weak hypothesis.

Kuang said, “I think quality of education rises in proportion to technological advancements instead of costs.”

There is hope the struggles of paying off financial aid can be resolved with the expansion of scholarships to more deserving middle-class students, stipends, grants, and work study.