Congressman John Carney continued his conversation on college affordability today.
Carney met with representatives from each of the state’s higher education institutions to discuss the rising cost of education and how to better prepare students and their families for the expense of college.
“I think the starting point is that all the institutions in Delaware, all the higher education institutions are aware of the problem and the challenge of keeping costs down, that is just going to increase over the next several years,” said Carney. “I think we’ve got to find a better way. We have to think out of the box a little more about how we structure federal policy so it encourages that.”
College costs have gone up 570 percent over the past 30 years, twice as fast as health care costs and four times the median household income.
Delaware’s higher education leaders said they’ve tried to keep tuition rate growth to a minimum, but are also faced with the continuing costs of updating campuses with the appropriate facilities and technology to accommodate students.
Many of the institutions also expressed that a majority of students are the first in their families to attend college and the experience can be overwhelming for families. Carney said one of the challenges is finding an effective way to help families plan for the financial commitment of higher education.
“The other thing I think that’s important is better communication- what we call making it worth it- so called value propositions so that families and students understand where their course of study is taking them, whether there’s going to be a job for them after graduation and how much that job is going to pay and is it going to enable them to be able to pay for their student loans,” said Carney.
He said there are several programs that are already going in the right direction, such as allowing students to earn college credit in high school and allowing students to transfer from a two-year college to a four-year university.
“We heard today about the colleges and universities making college credit available for high school students and these joint programs,” explained Carney. “That enables those students to get through four years at a lower cost.”
The total U.S. student loan debt recently hit $1 trillion, surpassing the total owed on both auto loans and credit card debt, which could mean more student loans defaults on the horizon.
“I’ve heard among some of my colleagues in Congress the idea of writing down some of that student loan. I think that’s a very slippery slope. I think we need to be careful about that. We need to do a better job of educating students and families about those financial commitments. There are limits in terms of the fed loans that are available. We certainly don’t want to be encouraging defaults. I think we’re going to get into that just by virtue of, the numbers don’t work with some of these student loan commitments that people have.”
Last month, Carney met with high school representatives as part of a series of higher education discussions he has planned.
The meeting comes at the same time as President Barack Obama is hosting a college affordability speaking tour in New York and Pennsylvania.