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The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Students encouraged to make sustainable products with EcoReps
Amelia KashianFebruary 22, 2024

U.S. college education needs to be tuition-free

Education is a powerful entity. It has the power to make individuals better off by increasing the amount of money they can earn during a lifetime. Most importantly, education can transform the individual and their mind.

The goal of every American being able to obtain an affordable post-secondary education is in dire danger. In fact, just last year student loan debt in the U.S. reached over $1 trillion and 25 percent of U.S. government student loans ended up in default.

There is only one comprehensive solution to fixing America’s problem of funding higher education: a tuition-free education funded by the U.S. government.

Education transforms the human mind. Without it, the potential of a person may never be reached. I know that this is true for me.

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I have taken many classes in political science and economics at Northern. Without these classes, I wouldn’t have nearly the amount of knowledge and understanding of these subjects that I do today. Without this knowledge, this column may not even exist.

Every American citizen deserves to have access to higher education. Price should never be a barrier.

Yet, many Americans don’t attend a university because of the debt incurred by student loans. With a government student loan default rate at 25 percent, I understand the fear of possible default.

In the past, companies such as Sallie Mae, who ironically denied me a student loan, issued student loans to higher education students. These loans were fully backed by the U.S. government.

When a student defaulted on a loan, Sallie Mae made even more money. Sallie Mae was paid the entire loan amount by the federal government. Then, the federal government sent the General Revenue Corporation, which was also owned by Sallie Mae, to collect the debt that the student owed the federal government.

The GRC would add a 25 percent collection fee onto the student’s loans and would also receive a 28-percent commission on what the student paid back to the government.

This type of practice was ended when Obama passed his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

This law stopped the federal government’s role in backing federal loans through companies such as Sallie Mae. Instead, the federal government now distributes its student loans directly.

It’s a good start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough, especially with past actions of the Republican Party.

Just last December, House Republicans proposed to cut $900 million from the Pell Grant program, which would have forced one million students out of the program.

We need a strong, resilient program that Republicans won’t be able to touch in the future, like Social Security today.

In 2005, President George Bush and congressional Republicans tried to partially privatize Social Security, but congressional Democrats and the American people stood in the way.

Countries like Denmark and Finland spend 7.8 and 5.9 percent of their GDP, respectively, on their educational systems. They spend that amount, but also provide universal tuition-free education through all stages of education.

The U.S. only spends 5.5 percent of its GDP on education. In spending less than Denmark and Finland on education, our country falls behind in other factors, such as the amount of student loan debt.

In Denmark and Finland, there are no 25-percent default rates on student loans. That is because there is no tuition.

In those countries, students don’t have to worry about backbreaking student loan debt after college.
In the United States, having high student loan debt is the norm, with the possibility of even defaulting on your student loan.

The U.S. government would only have to invest a few more percentage points of our GDP on post-secondary education to tear down all financial barriers and provide tuition-free education to all its citizens.

No longer would students have to worry about loans being so big that they would default and be forced into bankruptcy.

No longer would outstanding student loan debt surpass that of credit card debt in the United States.

Instead, students could dream about their potential in the future without fear, knowing that nothing could stop them from obtaining an education.

It’s time that the U.S. follows the educational model of other nations like Denmark and provides tuition-free higher education to all its citizens.

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