Right Hooks

The Taxpayers' Tuition Burden

The cost of college is increasing, and you're paying for it.

Thomas Gallatin · Jul. 31, 2016

The estimated average annual cost for instate students at a public university is now over $19,000, and for students attending a private university the cost jumps to an average of $44,000. With the ever-rising cost of college, many students are taking on low-interest government loans. Currently 93% of all student loans are government owned, with total outstanding loan debt standing at over $1.2 trillion.

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers, but what is clear is that students are taking on more debt than ever before to earn a bachelor’s degree. To make matters worse, less than 19% of all students earn their degree within four years, and for every extra year spent at a public university a student adds an estimated $22,826 in costs.

If this news weren’t concerning enough, the number of students who have defaulted on loan repayments should be. This past school year, 43% of students with federal loans were either in default, delinquency or had postponed payment — to the tune of over $200 billion. And guess who picks up the bill? Taxpayers, who ultimately back any government loan.

During the Obama administration, the burden on taxpayers has only worsened due to the expansion of the income-based repayment program, which caps at 10% of discretionary income what borrowers are required to repay each year. That’s coupled with the loan-debt forgiveness program for undergraduates, who have remaining loan debt forgiven after 20 years. Those who enter work in the public sector can receive loan debt forgiveness after only 10 years.

What this all means is that an alarmingly growing amount of the cost of college is now being covered by taxpayers. This is the result of the government seeking to promise greater access to education by covering costs, and through easy-access student loans and loan forgiveness programs, which in turn has encouraged universities to increase the overall cost of education. Is it any wonder so many young people are calling for “free” college? Half of them already aren’t paying for it.

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