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Affording College? Maybe it IS a reality!

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Department of Education's Homeroom blog.

Ed. Note: Chanda Kropp is a high school Spanish teacher in Hutchinson, Minn. Here she shares her impressions from a recent town hall in Minneapolis.

I must admit, the thought has crossed my mind many times of how my children will ever afford college with the current tuition rates. My dream is that my two wonderful children will attend the college of their choice, whether it is a public school, a private school or a school with out-of-state tuition. As a teacher, I value education and believe it opens so many doors. However, if reality means that a college student’s loan repayment is as much as her mortgage, I worry!

My concern changed to optimism last week as I sat with many South Minneapolis high school students, the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and many other distinguished local dignitaries for a town hall on college affordability. Hearing Secretary Duncan say that $40 billion dollars is currently being invested in Pell Grants and that the administration wants to expand its income based student loan repayment program, makes me incredibly happy!

A recent law signed by President Obama allows new borrowers who receive student loans after July 1, 2014, to cap their student loan repayments at 10 percent of their discretionary income. If the borrower keeps up with his or her payments over time, the balance will be forgiven after 20 years. Public service workers – such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service – will see any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years. Additionally, the administration is proposing to move up the 2014 start date to 2012 for some borrowers.

I’m hopeful that the combination of Pell Grants and reasonable loan repayment schedules will be a winning formula for all students in America. The United States once led the world with the percentage of students attending college; we have now slipped to 16th place. That simply will not be acceptable if we want to compete in a global market. America’s children should be concentrating on their academic degrees, not their degree of debt!

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