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Help students afford college

June 5, 2019 06:27 pm Updated: June 6, 2019 08:56 am

Unless you have a scholarship, going to college in 2019 is a dicey, not to mention expensive, proposition. So, it’s easy to guess why high school graduates are eschewing four-year schools in favor of community colleges, military service and the workforce.

How much does it cost to attend four-year college in New York state? According to CollegeCalc, an independent online college price guide for parents and students, the average annual four-year college tuition was $22,120 for the 2017-18 academic year, an increase of $1,410 over the 2015-16 average of $20,710, or a 6.81% increase.

To afford the cost of sending their children to college, many families must borrow, and that’s the problem. Student debt is out of control.

In New York, student loan debt more than doubled during the last decade, growing to $82 billion, a whopping increase of 112 percent, according to a report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The number of student loan borrowers also rose sharply in New York over the last 10 years with increases of more than 41 percent in the state, to 2.8 million.

“Such major increases in student loan debt levels and the share of borrowers with delinquent payments are cause for concern,” DiNapoli said. “The costs of such debt have implications not only for the individuals responsible for repayment, but also for the state economy.

“Although investments in higher education may lead to a stronger and more diverse economy, the cost of student loans may depress consumers’ ability to purchase new homes and make other expenditures that generate economic activity and employment,” DiNapoli added.

Changing federal loan programs could go a long way to solving the problem, U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, said Monday. Delgado called for a stop to charging interest on loans for higher education while students are in college. He called for interest rates on student loans to mirror the Treasury rate, which was how the program was structured many years ago. And he pointed to the possibility of student-loan forgiveness in exchange for students performing in-kind public service.

Spare a thought for this generation of college graduates, some of whom are saddled with debt mounting in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars; they will likely work for the rest of their lives to earn enough to pay it off. But we will all pay a price when there are fewer consumers with even less spending power, fewer Americans able to afford a home and an economy propped up by menial labor and minimum wages instead of strengthened by high-paying jobs and lifelong careers.