It's not our extravagant spending that's putting us in debt
Elika Roohi/Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
October 30, 2012
According to University of Alaska President Pat Gamble, crippling student debt is the fault of extravagant lifestyles students can’t support and not rising tuition.
“A lot of student debt is choice,” said Gamble, when speaking to the UA Board to Regents last week according to Alaska Dispatch.
Some students out there may spend their loans in a more frivolous manner than others, but most students attempt to live within a means that’s made harder and harder each year by rising tuition, expensive textbooks and excessive fees.
The president of the university system coming out and saying this to the Board of Regents tells students that figuring out how to fund their education is not his problem.
Paying for college is a responsibility that falls on a lot of shoulders. Students and their parents, if their parents are helping their children pay for college, need to own up to the cost of college and understand the responsibilities of the loans they may be taking out. But the university system also needs to figure out ways to make paying for college reasonable.
Which is why House Bill 272 “Student Loan Interest Reductions” is currently being looked at. If passed, the bill would reduce interest on student loans for graduates who decide
to stay in Alaska and use their degree. The state has provided programs like this in the past with great success. The Student Loan Forgiveness Act ended in 1980, but reduced student loans by fifty percent for graduates who decided to stay in Alaska and use their degree. With House Bill 272, there’s a possibility that programs like this will be available for student in the future.
For the most part, students aren’t taking out loans to fund their spring break trip, they’re doing it to afford their textbooks. Every semester, the financial aid office fills up with students that are waiting for their scholarships and loans to come in so they can pay off their rent or their heating bill or their tuition.
Largely speaking, students just want to get through college in four or five years and do that without going into crippling debt.
The University of Alaska system has a 10 percent four year graduation rate, according to the University of Alaska website. Our 10 percent average stacks up against the national average of a 30 percent four year graduation rate. Closing this gap is the motivation behind the “Finish in Four” and “Stay on Track” campaigns.
Most people end up at the state school because instate tuition pushed them there. It’s the reason I’m at UAF. Comparing a semester at school in Fairbanks to a semester at a college out of Alaska is enough to make me put on an extra sweater and appreciate the price the winter comes at. But if it takes a greater number of semesters to complete school at UAF–all the while tuition is rising every year–is it worth it?
Tuition increased by
7 percent this year. Gamble has proposed a 2 percent increase to the Board of Regents for next year. Tuition has more than doubled in the last decade, and the water in my apartment still tastes like it’s been sitting in a rusty pot for a few days.
If I’m challenged to spend my money responsibly by President Gamble, why isn’t the University challenged to spend their money responsibly? We just installed solar panels on the side of the SRC on a campus that gets pretty minimal sunlight during the school year.
The article about Gamble’s comments ran on Alaska Dispatch late last week. The comment section of the story is flooded with students refuting Gamble’s claim with personal stories of their own finances. I don’t think you can put this one on us, President Gamble.