TUN Highlights the Importance of the Student Loan Crisis

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Tonight at Hofstra University, the presidential candidates will likely get one more crack at debating the most important issue facing U.S. college students today -- the staggering cost of higher education and the fate of the various student loan and grant programs.

This boomerang effect of the student loan crisis is the reason why each of the candidates needs to fully address the issue at tonight’s debate.

Today’s swelling student loan debt is not just a student issue – it affects everyone and will have a ripple effect throughout the economy for many years to come. Outstanding student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion, topping the U.S. household credit card debt. About two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients have taken out student loans, with an average debt of approximately $23,000, and nearly 10% of these recipients owe more than $54,000. The combination of the burgeoning student debt load and the tight job market is hurting college graduates’ ability to move out on their own and is creating a “Failure to Launch” generation. Many graduates have no choice but to live with their parents for years after they graduate college. Saddled with more debt, they will likely buy their own homes, and start families, later. This boomerang effect of the student loan crisis is the reason why each of the candidates needs to fully address the issue at tonight’s debate.

Bringing Down the Cost of Higher Education

Each of the candidates recognizes that the root of the problem is the exceedingly high cost of higher education, which has sextupled since 1985. Both candidates have promised to reign in the cost of higher education, but have not provided much detail as to how they will do it beyond their outline points.

President Obama touched upon college affordability during the first Presidential debate, and his 2013 proposed budget rewards colleges that keep costs down while penalizing those that fail to keep costs down. “If you can’t stop tuition going up, your funding from taxpayers will go down. We should push colleges to do better; we should hold them accountable if they don’t,” President Obama said to a group of students at the University of Michigan earlier this year.

Similarly, Governor Romney also has a plan to bring down the college costs by making colleges more efficient, competitive and transparent. “I don't want to cut our commitment to education. I wanted to make it more effective and efficient,” Governor Romney stated during the first presidential debate. Romney previously issued a positing paper stating that his administration would make it "clear that the federal government will no longer write a blank check to universities to reward their tuition increases, and [will support] institutions that are pursuing innovative operating models to drive down costs." A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education, May 23, 2012 at pages 29-30 (“Education Plan”).

Tonight, both candidates need to provide further details on how they will implement their plans.

The Pell Grant Program

The Pell Grant program is the largest source of federal aid for students, serving more than 9 million of them. Pell Grant spending has more than doubled in the last five years to $34.8 billion as a result of increasing enrollment, expansion of eligibility standards and the recent increase of the maximum grant from $4,731 in 2008 to the current $5,550.

President Obama has been an advocate of the Pell Grant program and would let the current $5,550 per year maximum Pell Grant increase to $5,635 next year, as scheduled under current law, which he signed.

During much of the campaign, Romney has been critical of this increased Pell Grant spending. In his Plan to Restore the Promise of America’s Education System, Romney notes that “more spending will not solve the problem of tuition increases – to the contrary, it has helped fuel the problem. When Washington puts more money into student aid programs to help families and individuals pay for higher education, colleges and universities raise tuition rates.” Then, during the first presidential debate Romney, when appearing to address the Pell Grant program stated: “I'm not going to cut education funding. I don't have any plan to cut education funding and -- and grants that go to people going to college.”

Because we will face tough deficit issues for years to come and the Pell Grant program will likely be one of the sources Congress will look to find money, both candidates should address what their future commitment to the program will be.

About TUN

TUN’s core mission is to help college students save money. TUN is non-partisan, and acts as an advocate for students by encouraging local businesses to offer student deals. TUN also promotes the discounts offered by local businesses that are already committed to helping students. These deals can be found on both tun.com and TUN's Deal Finder mobile apps for iPhone and Android devices. TUN has rapidly grown since its inception in 2010 when it became apparent that college students would need all the help they could get to deal with the rising cost of higher education and increasing student loan debt.

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Scott Goryeb
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