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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

October 7, 2008 at 4:49 PM

Indentured graduates

College-tuition bubble growing

The high-tech and real-estate bubbles have burst. Are we finally going to see a bursting of the college-tuition bubble? [“Young, educated, drowning in debt,” page one, Oct. 5.]

As reported at www.finaid.org, for the past 30 years, college-tuition expense has increased at twice the rate of general inflation. And, as The Times reports, the government winds up paying off the loans of 20 percent to 50 percent of students in some colleges.

So the government encourages higher tuition expenses by disguising the inability of students and families to pay. Colleges are not forced (like every other business on the planet) to control their costs and provide value for dollar charged. And students are forced to take on more and more debt to chase a secure future. Sounds like a bubble to me.

The government should get out of the student-loan business, or at least not agree to subsidize ever-increasing amounts of tuition and student debt. Then colleges would have to rein in their out-of-control spending, and students and families wouldn’t have to mortgage their futures.

— Bill Dougherty, Bothell

Student chose to go into debt

Pertaining to graduates drowning in debt, it was Tyson Hunter’s choice to go to Brown University where the tuition is astronomically high. He could have done several things to not have debt.

My family was living from paycheck to paycheck, so I knew in the eighth grade that if college were to be in my future, I would have to pay for it.

In high school, I worked part-time during the school year and double-full-time during the summer (days and evenings) at anything I could get. I studied really hard and took Advanced Placement exams. As a senior, I began taking courses in a local junior college in the evening. Before I graduated, I got a partial (one-third) scholarship to a major private school, but I did not accept it because I did not want to accrue the debt of the other two-thirds.

I worked another year after high school and took more junior-college courses. I got accepted to a good state university. I sold my junk car in my freshman year to cut expenses. I worked 20 hours a week in the evenings, and I got into two internships. I graduated when I was 23, with no debt.

I worked for two years double-full-time, by day in my profession, and in the evenings as a bartender. I saved enough to go full-time to a state university for graduate school. I completed graduate school in two years, while working as a part-time bartender at night and a part-time barista in the early morning. I left graduate school with no debt, and with money to spare.

At 26, I got a great job with some cash in my pocket to buy a cheap, new mini car and a down payment for a one-bedroom condominium.

— Jeff Tanner, Seattle

Do something, Sallie Mae

A young man being in hock until his 50s to get an “education” is, indeed, indentured servitude, thanks to Sallie Mae and educational institutions in collusion via exorbitant pricing and unlimited credit.

Does this situation sound similar to Fannie Mae? Is there going to be a credit bubble regarding student loans? Some of these loans are now on the magnitude of a home loan. That much debt to finance an education is socially irresponsible.

I am not blaming the young man for trying to better himself, but these educational institutions and the government should start looking at the bigger picture to see if this is really “an investment in the future” or if they are just lining their own pockets.

This type of lending creates a domino effect in markets that will fall out of control, leading to a government bailout. There are other things the government could do, like interest-free loans, loan caps and larger grants that would lower prices in these businesses umm I mean, educational institutions that also have lost sight of their purpose.

English writer H.G. Wells said civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let’s not help catastrophe along with an overly expensive educational system and excessive lending (at a profit) to finance it.

— Anthony Badon, Seattle

Comments | More in Economy, Education

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