Colleges, not loan providers, are at the root of student debt

Conservative Campus

A regular look at what Vermont’s conservative college students are thinking, saying and doing today

by Gerhard Meyer, Senior, St. Michael’s College

The word ‘college” invokes all kinds of images; freedom, adulthood, term papers, and of course, student loans. With the amount of money that students are borrowing at sky-high levels, some are asking whether or not students are obliged to repay them. As someone who is paying my own way through college and is neck-deep in loans, the idea has tempted me. It sounds great, but is it the right thing to do?

Ever since I was a child, I have learned some basic rules in life. My father taught me that, if you borrow someone’s tools, you return them in better shape than you got them. If you borrow money, pay it back as soon as possible. The same holds true for student loans. Next time around, you may be the lender.

Still, I have heard very passionate people who believe that it’s just not realistic to expect empty-handed college students to pay back what they have borrowed. I sympathize with these people, as I come from a large family who is by no means rich. I am then reminded why the loans were created and given in the first place: to ensure that the future job force is strong and competitive. If we expect to take and not give back, the providers will realize that their loan program is a bad investment.

The reaction of most people is to demonize the loan providers. I believe that the rage is misguided. We must look beyond them to the real cause, the colleges themselves. Since students are paying for college, they have the right to be heard. The college essentially is their employee, as is the government. The rates that most colleges charge are well above what most students can afford. Many are asking if college is even worth it at all.

This is where the free market comes in. If loans are not expected to be forgiven, students will ultimately pick the school that they feel they can afford. This will in turn stimulate competition between colleges. From visiting colleges, I have noticed areas that deserved cutbacks. America is in a recession, and a wise college will adapt. I have seen plenty of waste, including professor tenure which is another topic for another day.

I believe that a college that plans on riding out the recession must form a committee that explores the various ways that money can be saved. My college, Saint Michael’s turns down their thermostat while everyone is on break. This not only saves on the heating bill, but it does not interfere with the lives of the students.

Faculty, parents, and students, this is an issue that must not be ignored. Those paying for college should be able to know how their money is being spent (or wasted). This is especially true of state schools, as they are taxpayer funded. In choosing the compassionate route, we must choose the ethical path. We must never abandon our American principles and expect something for nothing. We must focus on the real problem, which is high tuition. Together with the schools, an effort should be made to trim the fat off of the costs to open the window for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.