THE BLOG
07/02/2014 08:14 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2014

Shortchanging Our Own Future

I am very disappointed and concerned about our inability to provide affordable education to the next generation of leaders. The last few years have been extraordinarily disheartening for graduating students and postgraduates faced with few employment opportunities, soaring costs of college tuition, and, most recently, increases in student loan interest rates. To win the future, we should be providing incentives to encourage our youths to pursue professional careers that are suffering from labor shortages, instead of making education more costly and taxing for them.

While our global economy is in a state of flux there is no question that the fastest-growing jobs are in healthcare, largely due to changing demographics. According to the United States Census Bureau, 83.7 million Americans are expected to be 65 and older by 2050. This aging population and retirement of the baby-boomer generation will inevitably intensify need for quality healthcare. Currently, experts anticipate considerable demand for personal care aides, diagnostic medical sonographers, occupational therapy assistants, nurse practitioners, dental hygienists, and medical equipment repairers. It is also estimated that healthcare providers will account for at least one-third of the jobs projected to be created over the course of the next ten years.

As the longstanding Dean of New York's Congressional Delegation, I have had the privilege of interacting with countless medical students from the some of the greatest medical schools in the nation, including Columbia University. Yet it is disheartening when aspiring physicians tell me that many of their peers are discouraged from obtaining degrees in healthcare because they do not foresee a high return on their investments.

Students are discouraged to pursue a career in medicine because it is simply becoming more unaffordable to endure the gruesome years of education and training. Subsidized Stafford student loans doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent last year. While my fellow Democrats and I sought to procure revenue by closing existing tax loopholes, a handful of Republicans refused to maintain affordable interest rates and instead sought to place the burden of deficit reduction on low-income students and middle-class families.

What is even worse, the Republican Party delivered another painful blow by coercing the Obama Administration into signing the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, which effectively increased student loan interest rates even further. Consequently, new unsubsidized and subsidized student loans are now set at 4.66 percent, up from 3.86 percent.

The anxiety of rising student loan interest rates is compounded by the abhorrent increase in tuition cost that has skyrocketed far above the rate of inflation. According to a report released by the College Board, the average in-state tuition at a public institution for a four-year degree was $8,893 and a master's degree was $7,750 for the 2013-2014 academic year. Given that the median household income has declined from $54,387 in 2005 to $51,371 in 2012, the cost of higher education has become a significant drain on America's working families. This is what inspired me to introduce the Student Loan Interest Deduction Act (SLID) of 2013, which would double tax deductions for student loan interest rates and eliminate income phase-outs.

I am very proud of the accomplishments we have made in remedying some of our nation's most pressing issues. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been a step in the right direction, which have allowed those who were previously denied coverage access to health insurance and medical care. We must now enact measures that will resolve the labor shortage in the healthcare industry. If we do not improve access to affordable education and compel the next generation of leaders to pursue professional careers that will be in high demand, America will have fallen short on investing in our own future.

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