As a recent college graduate I have trouble picturing the life I envisioned for myself only four years ago. I would like to believe that I am taking strides towards becoming a Hollywood writer and director. There should be nothing holding me back. I speak three languages, I have lived on four continents and I won my first writing contest in the third grade. I bought my first car three weeks ago. I moved to sunny Southern California one month ago. And five months ago I graduated from the George Washington University with what I believe to be a phenomenal education. So why can I not shake a constant anxiety and enjoy my first few months beyond college?
Just before commencement I sat down to take stock of my student loans and realized that I had incurred more than $20,000 in debt. That was my warm
welcome into adulthood. Add to that the $10,000 I borrowed to buy my first
car and it becomes a little easier to see why I refrain from letting my dreams carry me into some blissful notion that these financial obligations will somehow solve themselves.
The battle to enact the $700 billion bailout reached full steam the week moved to California. Car shopping was nearly impossible as lenders who may once have considered financing me took one look at the mammoth loans in my credit report and dismissed my file. When Senator Joe Biden said earlier this month that education is the "engine that is going to give us economic growth" I find it hard to believe that this is what he meant. How can I consider contributing to any economic revival when I will be struggling to pay off my education for years to come?
In the 1970's the ratio of educational grants to loans was 70% to 30%. Today that has been reversed and American students are offered only 25% of financial in grants and the other 75% in loans. The next US administration should establish a special Presidential task force charged solely with solving the crisis of college affordability. Innovative loan forgiveness initiatives, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit proposed by Barack Obama, will relieve much of the burden that students like myself feel upon graduation. In addition, I believe it necessary for the US government to train and deploy financial advisers to high schools across the nation to engage students in a realistic discussion of their options for secondary education, including community colleges and vocational schools. And while I tend to be a fiscal conservative I would like to see a great deal more government spending on higher education, specifically an increase in the amount of money offered through Pell Grants.
In all honesty, neither candidate has said enough to instill confidence in me that they will make higher education a priority. I can only hope that they will. It's clear that they need to: college tuition costs are skyrocketing, and the average amount of student debt is through the roof. Equipping America's workforce with quality, affordable education will be a key to our future economic success.