How We Can Solve the Student Loan Crisis

In the United States, it costs far more to educate a college student than in countries such as Great Britain, France, Germany, and Japan. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed student loan debt ($1.19 trillion) surpasses auto loan debt ($968 billion) and credit card debt ($684 billion) in its May 2015 quarterly report on household debt and credit. If car prices had risen as fast as college tuition prices over the past three decades, the average cost of a new car would be more than $80,000. The average 2015 college graduate owes more than $35,000 in student loans and takes about 17 years to pay it off. Currently, millennials make up about 40 percent of unemployed Americans.

Florida is already a national leader in K-12 educational options, and Gov. Rick Scott is looking to expand those options at the college level by proposing more flexibility in the use of Bright Futures scholarship funds. While no legislation was considered to expand the scholarship this past year, Gov. Scott suggested expanding the Bright Futures scholarships program by $23.5 million to cover credit hours taken during summer term in his 2014-2015 budget. Summer scholarship coverage would allow students access to the education options they desire. These options could range from students graduating faster to join the workforce or attend graduate school, taking spring or fall internships, not needing to work multiple jobs, taking out fewer loans, and having access to different teachers or courses. Students would also graduate with less student debt, and would be able to pay off student loans sooner by entering the job market more quickly. For the next legislative session, legislators should think about extending Bright Futures funds and flexibility to the summer so students can pursue their education goals with less financial burden.

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