|Bernie Sanders' "College For All Act" proposal: "That's not gonna happen."|
In an old episode of The Walking Dead
, an armed wacko asks Sheriff Rick if he and his buddies can join Rick's tribe of survivalists. "That's not gonna happen," Sheriff Rick rasps with his impeccable Georgia accent. And then Rick shoots the wacko dead with his trademark service revolver.
Something similar might be said about Bernie Sanders' "College For All Act
" proposal. That's not gonna happen. Nevertheless, Bernie has come up with some good ideas that are worth examining.
First, and most importantly, Bernie proposes free college tuition for Americans to attend 4-year public colleges or universities. That's a great idea and would actually cost Americans much less than we are spending now in federal student aid.
But, as I said in a previous blog posting, the for-profit college industry and the private non-profits are happy with the status quo and couldn't survive a week without federal financial aid. The only way Bernie's free tuition plan could work would be to shut down the present student-aid program, and that's not gonna happen. So Bernie's College For All Act is--as I said earlier--Dead On Arrival.
Bernie's college funding proposal has some other good ideas, however. Along with a lot of other responsible people, Bernie proposes a simplified Student Aid Application process. Last year, Senators Lamar Alexander and Michael Bennett proposed
a FAFSA form that only has two questions. Almost everyone agrees that the present Student Aid Application process is confusing and overly complicated, so we should listen to Bernie when he says the process should be simplified.
Bernie also proposes lower interest rates and an unlimited opportunity for students to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates. This is a great idea because, as a recent New York Times
article made clear, it is the accruing interest on student loans, not the amount that students originally borrowed, that is crushing millions of student-loan debtors. The Times told the story
of Liz Kelly, who borrowed about $25,000 to get an undergraduate degree and then borrowed more to go to graduate school. The total amount Kelly borrowed was less than $150,000, but she now owes $410,000 due to the interest that accrued while her loans were in forbearance or deferment.
Critics will say that lower interest rates and easy loan consolidation will cost taxpayers billions, which is true. But let's face it: The people whose loans have ballooned out of control due to accrued interest and fees will never pay the loans back anyway. Do you think Liz Kelly will ever pay off the $410,000 she now owes?
There is one huge caveat to Bernie's proposal to allow students to refinance their loans. There are now 41 million outstanding student-loan debtors, and many of them took out multiple loans. Allowing millions of borrowers to refinance their loans would create an administrative nightmare. In my opinion, it would make more sense to just forgive the interest on those loans or give overwhelmed debtors reasonable access to the bankruptcy courts.
But, as Sheriff Rick said to the armed wacko, "That's not gonna happen." Apparently, our national government would rather create a real-life class of The Walking Dead
than take responsible action to give honest but unfortunate student-loan debtors some relief.
|The Walking Dead: These folks will never pay off their student loans.|
Lamar Alexander & Michael Bennett. An Answer on a Postcard. New York Times
, June 19, 2014, p. A25. Accessible at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/06/19/opinion/simplifying-fafsa-will-get-more-kids-into-college.html?_r=0
Kevin Carey. (2015, November 29). Lend With a Smile, Collect With a Fist. New York Times
, Sunday Business Section, 1. Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/upshot/student-debt-in-america-lend-with-a-smile-collect-with-a-fist.html?_r=0