Scholarships are only a half-step

By Thunderword Staff



The funding model for how students pay for college in America is completely broken.

And while there have been steps to remedy this situation, the fact remains that the system is in need of a major overhaul. During its last session, the Washington Legislature passed a

plan that provides full scholarships to students whose families make less then $50,000, and partial scholarships to students whose families make less than $75,000.

While this is certainly a good first step, many students are still left in the cold. A large portion of students in Washington are in a gray area where their families make too much money to qualify for these scholarships, but too little for their families to fund college themselves.

While these scholarships are intended to provide everyone an equal opportunity, there still needs to be changes made so other students aren't left behind. Students left in this financial limbo are forced to take out student loans and often try to pay for their college education themselves.

That doesn't necessarily mean that there should be free college for everyone, an idea proposed by several presidential candidates and members of congress. A free tuition reduces the value that the degree has. If everyone has the same degree, that degree becomes pointless.

Free college could also reduce a student's work ethic. People tend to work harder for things when they have some skin in the game. But if a student can fail a class and not have any financial penalty, they may not try nearly as hard.

While there is no easy solution for this problem, something needs to be done. Students in America now owe more than $1.5 trillion in student debt. That's an average of more than $37,000 dollars per student.

The price of college is rising eight times faster than wages. Since 1980, the price of tuition has risen by 260 percent. The simple reality is this - college is becoming too expensive for an average person to afford.

Once the students in this limbo graduate, they are hampered by debt that will impact them for the rest of their lives. College is supposed to educate minds and provide opportunity for a better life, but instead it becomes financial ruin for far too many people.

Students are tied down by loans that many of them took out when they were 18. Loans they are not able to discharge even through bankruptcy. If someone is not considered responsible to rent a car until they are 25, they are not nearly responsible enough to take out a loan at 18 that can be $100,000 or more.

Instead, there needs to be a system that provides students an affordable option to college, without diminishing the benefit of that education. Until there is that change, too many students will continue to be weighed down by student debt.

Perhaps a system similar to Teacher Loan Forgiveness Pro- gram, a program that forgives a teacher's debt if they teach at a low-income school for five years. A similar system that forgives student debt if they agree to do X, Y and Z that provides benefit to the community after graduation is one possible solution.

But there must be a middle ground where students can get a valuable education without being bogged down by debt.

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