Randy Proto: Make College More Affordable

Well, yes, of course we do. But how do we do that? Thankfully, Proto has some answers to this question, because when I think of what college cost me (a lot), and what it will cost my kids (a lot more), I am on the verge of vertigo:

There are many long term options to improve affordability that we should pursue, including: controlling delivery costs through innovation, reducing student lost wages by accelerating graduate entry into the workforce, and creating seamless cost effective lifelong learning by improving cooperation between colleges.But all of these options would likely take from several years to a decade or more to have substantive impact. So is there a viable short-term option to improving affordability? Yes. We can improve federal student loan financing. Now.


Federal student loan programs have some special repayment options, such as income based repayment and extended repayment, to improve affordability for certain borrowers. But as helpful as these are, they are likely to only help a minority of borrowers. That’s not enough to meet current and coming affordability challenges. We need to reduce monthly payments for all students, and we can. Given that education provides a lifelong benefit, we should finance it accordingly: let’s extend all federal direct student loans so they are repayable over 20 years instead of the current standard 10 year term. Loan size limits should remain unchanged – so there is no “ballooning” borrowing. This change would cut the standard loan payment of students by about 35% — a significant broad-based increase in affordability.

As Melanie Brealt of the Nation put it, in agreeing with Proto:

The goal of student loan reform should be to encourage students to go to school, whether it is career schools, community colleges, private four-schools, or whatever institution fits their needs. If we take away the default risks, then these students, their families and taxpayers will be more willing to make that kind of sound investment, even in this depressing economic environment.

So while we haven’t yet solved the crisis in the cost of education, wouldn’t this be a good start? I agree with Randy Proto and Melanie Breault. Let’s do it.

*Full Disclosure: I am proud to be assisting Mr. Proto in getting out this message about the need to make higher education more affordable to all who wish to pursue it

This post was read 103 times.

About author View all posts

Cliff Schecter

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Like many services in Sweden, education, including most universities, is supported by the high taxes. I have seen analyses that show our system is spending less government money but more private money for education, healthcare, etc., with the American costs being generally higher. It may be that having a single payer reduces over-all cost – we are also supporting the middlemen of insurance companies, bankers, etc.

    “If you can pick it up or step over it, it’s not a real computer”.

  • Thinking more about the issue, it occurs to me that the reason there’s such a push to privatize services is to generate for corporations. Of every tax $ paid, some proportion goes to provide actual services from the government – say (arbitrary guess) 90 cents of ever $1. Privatized, we’d have to deduce corporate profits, which would reduce actual services to 80 cents – or 50 cents, depending on corporate greed (which appears to be bottomless).

    The issue is: would more waste occur from inefficient government bureaucrats and corrupt officials or from corporate greed and corruption. If the government pays it all, at least we can vote the rascals out (and vote in other rascals). It’s hard to vote out the head of JP Morgan Chase because they increase the cost of educational loans, or Hartford Insurance because the need a profit on my health insurance.

    “If you can pick it up or step over it, it’s not a real computer”.

  • Why do we have to be debt slaves to go to school, or operate the federal government in general? Just print greenbacks, give em new serial numbers. United States Notes, not Federal Reserve Notes. Mail it out to college students in cash and see what happens when they try to deposit em.

    If the New York Stock Exchange can handle 10000 fake HFT quotes a second why the hell can’t a dollar be electronically created without creating a dollar in TBill debt? Kennedy and Lincoln did it. Cliff, please get us out of these core authoritarian schemes, you’re a clever guy…


  • I think that basically sums it up. The idea that somehow, making it easier for people to go into or carry debt is going to help keep prices in line is like that ‘home affordability’ thing.

    The fact is that there’s not a whole lot of sense to having everyone, or almost everyone, go to college or university.

  • What’s worse, is that many people graduate and start out their working life with major debt, only to find out their degree is not really that valuable. The Establishment keeps harping on the value of education, but then outsources the work and leaves the current grads flipping burgers. The education kids really need is for basic literacy and critical thinking, but that would quickly sour them on the ‘American Dream’ as it is currently mis-advertised.

  • There has been a wasteful armaments race underway among colleges and universities to provide the fanciest student union, newest dorms with private baths and personal HDTV, and the most elaborate gyms complete with Olympic swimming pool. It’s the college equivalent of a McMansion, only the debt is taken on by the students who are paying for all this glamor. And by the way, hardly any money was put into science labs, and professors were being replaced by cheap TAs and Associates earning about $8/hour for teaching these college students.

    Unfortunately it is too late to go back. Incoming students will have to pay for the equivalent of an hotel suite for four years rather than share a room with someone and a communal bath down the hall. The only way for most students to attend college given these fixed costs is to take on heavy amounts of debt.

  • Have been nationalized. Repayment is capped at 10% of earnings and unpaid balances are forgiven. 2010 saw some of the most comprehensive reform in 20 years.

    In Minnesota college courses are offered in high school for free and count for credits to reduce time in college. All the two year programs are free if they are transferee into a State four year program. We have a law school whose tuition is free if you work for three years after graduation in a public law service program.

    There are so many options if you are looking. Problem is folks just getting the loans and picking schools without thinking about it. Using college as a drinking game is a problem as well.

  • Which has wreaked havoc on students.

    Student loans have served as free money for colleges, funding a bubble in tuition costs. Young people are nailed down to a job to pay off the debt, instead of spending their 20’s traveling, screwing off, working for charity groups etc.

    Sometime in the late 90’s Yale got perturbed about this and talked about a zero-debt program- you got out of Yale with no debt, total free or partial ride for scholarship students. This was based on dot-com endowment valuations, and did not come to pass.

    Do student grants for living expenses and free tuition. Nothing else. Especially for medical school- you wash out, you’re at 100k-300k without high-earning job prospects. You can’t decide halfway through, “y’know, this isn’t for me”- you’re monkey-hammered and have to keep going.

    His position in society, his high repute among his fellow men, his nimbus as a master biped.

    – Rex Stout

  • for which the students are paying include free or nearly free medical insurance on a good policy, lots of paid holidays and vacations (when the students are off, you are off), free use of that great athletic center, swimming pool, exercise facilities, free use of the library and usually also of the libraries of the other local universities, free parking as opposed to buying parking when you work downtown in a city, sometimes meal or snack subsidies, and on and on. Working for higher education is a pretty good life, and paid for by the students.
    Yes, there is also grant support, but the majority of costs are picked up by tuition revenue.
    And what is that staff/student ratio at your school?

    “All I know is just what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers

Leave a Reply