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The end of academia’s Gilded Age

America does have a student loan problem. But it’s not the problem Joe Biden wants you to believe it is. The real issue with student debt today is that the cost of college tuition has skyrocketed, yet the value of a college diploma has plummeted. What’s worse is the federal government created this problem by writing blank checks to colleges, with little effort to control the cost or quality of higher education. My Student Loan Reform Act of 2022 would end this academic Gilded Age, reduce the cost of tuition, and give colleges a much-needed reality check.

Here’s what liberals aren’t telling you: almost one-third of college students now drop out before graduation. Nearly two in five college graduates regret their major, over 40 percent of recent graduates are underemployed, and more than half work in fields they didn’t study. Yet, in the past 20 years, tuition prices have risen over 180 percent and total student loan debt is now nearing $2 trillion.

Meanwhile, institutions of higher education are reaping unprecedented profits. College endowments have now ballooned to over $800 billion in value—with Harvard and Yale sitting on over $70 billion of untaxed wealth. Colleges use their massive fortunes not to serve their students but instead to pay for bloated bureaucracies. Between 1976 and 2018, total student enrollment increased by just 78 percent, while the number of college administrators ballooned 616 percent.

The federal government’s guarantee of virtually unlimited student loans is the primary cause of this academic Gilded age. In return for issuing trillions of dollars’ worth of loans and protecting these loans from bankruptcy, the government demands almost nothing in return from the colleges. This enables colleges to pocket extraordinary sums of money, churn out low quality degrees, and never worry about their graduates again, other than to harass them for alumni donations.

RICK HESS: BIDEN’S STUDENT LOAN HANDOUT WILL ALLOW COLLEGE CARTEL TO SHAKE DOWN TAXPAYERS FOR MORE

The Student Loan Reform Act will fundamentally reform the college-student relationship and the way Washington issues federal student loans. It will ensure that institutions of higher education have skin in the game in their student’s success and will gradually reduce the cost of tuition across the country.

First, it will disincentivize and penalize colleges that indebt their students in undesirable and unmarketable programs, causing graduates to default years later. It requires that colleges become guarantors of up to 50 percent of future federal student loans and fines colleges 25 percent of the value of future defaulted loans. This will force colleges to have a financial stake in their student’s success, strongly incentivizing them to offer reasonably priced and useful degree programs.

Second, it pressures colleges to reduce the cost of tuition and to stop hoarding large amounts of endowment money. Any university charging over $20,000 a year for undergraduate tuition must gradually eliminate 50 percent of their administrative staff to qualify for future student loans. 

This legislation also places a 20 percent luxury tax on undergraduate tuition above $40,000 and a one percent tax on the richest private college endowments. The revenue raised from these taxes will go towards workforce education to help the majority Americans that don’t have a college degree. Once again, these policies will give colleges and universities a financial incentive to stop funding useless bureaucrats and bring down their costs.

Under the Student Loan Reform Act two especially predatory student loan programs, known as grad PLUS and parent PLUS, will be significantly curtailed. The grad PLUS program incentivizes graduate students to borrow without limit and stay in school indefinitely, while enabling graduate schools to recklessly increase their cost of attendance. Parent PLUS similarly pushes parents of undergraduate students to borrow without limit, saddling millions with excessive debt late in life. The Student Loan Reform Act eliminates grad PLUS except for medical, dental and nursing students, whose loans will be capped at $10,000 a year and likewise caps parents PLUS.

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Finally, this bill requires that universities implement policies that protect diversity of thought on campus. In particular, it will protect free speech and ban all forms of racial discrimination as a condition of participation in the federal student loan program. This will lessen the grip left-wing ideologues have on college campuses and ensures their academic environments no longer impedes the intellectual growth of all students.

Colleges and universities had the opportunity to do the right thing on their own for decades but instead embraced predatory financial practices that have hurt millions. The Student Loan Reform Act will bring sanity back to our higher education system and end this academic Gilded Age. 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SEN. TOM COTTON

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