The myth of “working your way through college” today
By Suzanne Martindale on Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
If you went to school a few decades ago, you may have found it pretty doable to get a summer job, maybe work a bit during the school year, and cover all your bills. Today, however, the cost of education is rising by the minute and everyone is waking up to the fact that we are making it almost impossible to get a college education at an affordable price.
A piece from last year by the Atlantic points out the sad reality for today’s college students: while working part-time might have paid for school in the late 1970s, these days you’d have to work more than a full-time job (~48 hrs/wk) while in school to cover tuition at a public university. That’s not even considering your textbooks and living expenses.
This helps explain way so many students and families have no choice but to take out loans in order to cover their education costs. These loans aren’t cheap either – interest rates are well above the rates for other kinds of loans out there in the market – and multiple generations of former students are struggling to repay them.
To make things worse, many people who went to school years ago are still stuck paying their loans, and the companies that process their loan payments may be putting up barriers to getting out of debt. Just today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a new report detailing complaints they’ve received in the last year about these student money woes. They have found that people with older federal loans are falling behind on payments at a higher rate – and that this may be because their loan servicers are not doing a good job of helping them and providing vital information about their rights. The loans the CFPB analyzes in this report are from an older federal aid program that ended in 2010 – the Federal Family Education Loan Program – that allowed private lenders to make loans, with a federal government guarantee. The companies servicing these FFELP loans appear to be frustrating people’s attempts to manage their loans and stay current on payments.
We’ve let education costs get out of control, forcing students to borrow money to pay for college. The very least we can do is make sure that they’re treated fairly when trying to repay their loans afterward. That’s why we’ve called on the CFPB to write rules of the road for education loan servicing. But going forward, we all need to ask ourselves – what can we do, together, to make college affordable again?