Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lawmakers tackle student debt

​On Tuesday, January 29th the House Higher Education committee, chaired by Representative Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor), held a discussion and work session on higher education financial aid and student debt in the state of Washington.
In 2010, student debt made headlines for surpassing the debt on credit cards in the United States. More recently, it was revealed that the proportion of student loan balances that are in delinquency (unpaid for 90 days or more) surpassed that of credit-card balances for the first time.
As Rachel Sharp, Director of Student Financial Assistance with the Washington Student Achievement Council, made clear when she was presenting to the committee, Washington does a much better job at controlling student debt than the national average. State financial aid programs – such as the State Need Grant, State Work Study, and College Bound Scholarship – have done a good job of helping mitigate recent tuition increases.
Rep. Larry Seaquist
Members of the Higher Education Committee agreed that the growth in student debt is cause for concern, however, and that more needs to be done to improve higher education affordability and educate students about taking on debt. Their work session on Tuesday provided important information and a framework for moving forward as the legislative session progresses.
Here are some of the key facts that were presented to the committee:
  • Annual borrowing is increasing at public four year institutions, private four year institutions, and community and technical colleges
  • Private loans have actually decreased in recent years, despite overall borrowing going up
  • 56 percent of students graduate from four year institutions with debt
  • Despite this, Washington still ranks 39th in debt load after graduation, meaning our students have less debt than 38 other states
  • 1.7 billion in financial aid is provided annual to resident undergraduate students attending four year, community, and technical colleges
Read this story in Spanish.