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January 17, 2021

Ada Fisher: College education should not be on taxpayers’ dime

By Ada Fisher

Any plan to do national forgiveness of student loans is wrong unless those loans had a service or in-kind contract that such restitution would fulfill.

The U.S. student loan debt, per 2020 data, is $1.67 trillion — from which the 2018 college graduates each owe on average approximately $29,200.

According to Bartleby Research, student debt can be owed by an attending, formerly withdrawn or graduated student to a lending institution or financial institution. The lent amount, often referred to as a student loan or the debts for government loans, may be owed to the school if the student has dropped classes and withdrawn from the school or if the student has graduated but is underemployed. Withdrawing from a school with a failing grade could deprive the student of the ability to continue his/her enrollment by disqualifying the student of necessary financial aid.

Student loans come in many forms, including government, private, credit borrowing or surer-backed (such as parents). They also differ in many countries in the strict laws regulating renegotiating and bankruptcy. Due payments, including room and board, may be a retroactive penalty for services rendered by the school to the individual.

The government has thrown some unfortunate monkey wrenches into the student loan program.

No. 1: The Pell Grant program has allowed educational institutions to raise tuition every time grant amounts are raised, thereby not diminishing the prospects of any true savings on cost. These loans have no requirement that a course of study for an institution actually have the needed courses for a student to graduate within a normal period of time.

No. 2: Any and everything someone wants to study has been considered legitimate whether such degrees offer any hope of adequate economic educational compensation to recoup this investment. It is not the taxpayer’s job to finance an education for its citizens beyond high school. These are choices which the individual makes and cost which he/she should bare.

No. 3: The program penalizes educational institutions who enroll students who don’t graduate by causing them to seek out the students to get repayment as well as making them liable for student failure to repay as part of their accreditation requirement to be financially stable and limit borrowing by future students. This circumstance erroneously penalizes the schools for money borrowed without consulting them and for which calculations of additional aid for others may be crippled. This is particularly poignant for small private institutions and, particularly, the historically Black colleges and universities — many of whom have their accreditation questioned due in some measure to these debts. The schools do not make the loans; so why are they held liable for collecting on them? Why also does the student loan not get diminished if the schools have been liable?

No. 4: These loan repayments for service are shaky and non-reliable, particularly for the professions. Obtaining certification for allowed areas of need can be complicated and, once done, repayment is no guarantee. Hidden in the loan’s fine print (and a major assumption) is the implied understanding that such depends on the appropriation of such monies by Congress.

No. 5: The interest rate on these loans are unfortunately variable, leaving borrowers subject to the economic foibles of prevailing markets. Some students had to pay back 18% on loans while the prime interest rate was only 10%. Such loans should be tied to the prime interest rate at the time of borrowing, as should most credit cards, if the goal is to help John Q Public get affordable assistance.

As one who took on over $57,000 in forgivable loans for my education only to find out these government loans would not be forgiven after years of doing service in areas of need, I was appalled to see my wages garnished at a minimum of $3,000 per month until $39,000 had been extracted from my check after I had served my time. I had done over seven years of service making below standard wages in required areas of need as contractually agreed upon. There were thousands of us in the Public Health Service’s National Health Service Corps so penalized.

Before others have their loans forgiven, the federal government should be required to pay back monies to those who rendered their service obligations and did not have their loans forgiven as promised. I’m still finding myself hounded by weekly calls from agencies in reference to loans which were first repaid in service, then garnished from the flesh in wages wrongly taken. Now I’m hounded from some list as not having repaid these loans; lord help me because the government has not.

Government honor your word: Repay these loans before others are considered for forgiveness.

Salisbury’s Ada Fisher is a licensed teacher, retired physician, former school board member and former N.C. Republican national committeewoman.

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