Students pass through Sather Gate at UC Berkeley. (Los Angeles Times)
Los Altos High School

Opinion: Financial aid impact — a help or burden?

College tuition has been steadily skyrocketing for years and has no stop in sight. Financial aid programs from the federal government provide low and middle income families with opportunities to attend higher education.

Several representatives including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have claimed, federal financial aid may contribute to year-by-year rising tuition and the debt burden that students carry years after they leave college.

After DeVos’ 2018 speech about the “looming crisis in higher education,” some education experts said it lacked an understanding of the problem or solutions, according to the Washington Post.

During the Federal Student Aid Training Conference, DeVos mentioned statistics of only one in four borrowers start to pay off debt and interest from student loans. The nation has a $1.5 trillion debt in federal student-loans which are held by about 45 million borrowers, according to Forbes.

Besides the perspective given from DeVos, the Director of Financial Aid at Cal State Long Beach Nick Valdivia, felt there may be other reasons for colleges raising their rates.

“I believe the general increase in cost of living drives up to cost of higher education. As institutional operational costs increase, more faculty, staff, increasing wages, increasing costs of goods, the demand for additional funding to provide students with their education increases,” Valdivia said. “This coupled with the Federal and State governments slashing funding to higher education and diverting it to other state costs, is what results in higher educational costs.”

DeVos said the student-loan programs bury both students and taxpayers because it is “stealing from future generations,” according to the Washington Post.

“I believe investing in our educational system with more funding is of national interest. Either through diverting funds from other areas of our national budget or increasing our budget (taxes). Because the current divide in our political system, I don’t see any major strides being made on this front, as it takes bi-partisan agreement,” Valdivia said. “However, ideologically, the two parties see the solution very differently, thus, coming to agreement is going to be very challenging.”

The soon-to-be-divided Congress has an important role in introducing and voting on future federal policy of financial aid and initiatives that could improve the situation. However, it is unlikely any new federal policy that would improve the overall Financial Aid situation for students would be passed soon, Valdivia said.

“I think the increase in tuition costs is reflective of the state of the economy. Private colleges do not receive government funding, which may also play a factor,” said Victoria Kuang, a student at UCLA.

Many researchers such as Jason Delisle, researcher of higher education and student loans at the American Enterprise Institute rebut DeVos’ viewpoint saying there was no evidence to support DeVos’ claim. Other scholars researched the claim and failed to come with a reason. Fisherman said the claim was a weak hypothesis.

“I think quality of education rises in proportion to technological advancements instead of costs,” Kuang said.

There is hope the struggles of paying off financial aid can be resolved with the expansion of scholarships to more deserving middle-class students, stipends, grants, and work study.