US Lawmakers Debate Education Issues

    26 June, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

    Lawmakers in Washington are debating education issues, including the interest rates that students pay for loans. College students who take loans graduate owing an average of $26,000. But some economists say the real issue is controlling the cost of college. Experts say these high costs are hurting the whole economy.

    Joshua Jordan earned a doctorate degree in physical therapy. "I am currently in debt for $210,000."

    Joshua Jordan has eight times the loan debt of the average student. He says he has sometimes needed to work two jobs to pay his bills.

    For the past 30 years, college tuition has been increasing at twice the rate of inflation. Universities say decreasing financial support from state governments forces them to charge higher tuition. Private colleges now charge an average of more than $30,000 a year.

    Terry Hartle speaks for the American Council on Education which represents thousands of colleges across the United States.

    "It's a terrible conundrum that we face as a country. We want more and more post-secondary education. We want more focus on academic quality and graduation. At the same point, the funding sources for higher education have been diminishing for a generation."

    Experts worry that the high cost of college makes it less likely that good students from poor families will attend college, this means fewer scientists, engineers and others who could help increase economic growth. And a survey shows that some students concerned about repaying thousands of dollars in loans are delaying marriage and children.

    Peter Mazareas is with the College Savings Foundation.

     "These students will not contribute to the economy. They will go home and live at home. They won't buy cars. They won't invest in housing, so there is a real multiplier effect that is short term.

    Georgetown University Labor Economist Anthony Carnevale says the current system cuts economic growth for the whole country.

    "The effects on economic growth [of failing to produce post secondary talent] are substantial. If we had kept up with demand for post secondary talent, economists estimate that we would be at about $500 billion or more  per annum in gross domestic product, that is people would have more money to spend. "

    Meanwhile, Physical Therapist Joshua Jordan says his family is not wealthy and could not have paid for his education.

    "There would have been no way I could have created a career for myself that I wanted to do without the use of student loans."

    So for Joshua Jordan, his large debt was worth it.

    The Department of Education recently reported that today one-third of Americans between ages of 25 and 29 hold college degrees that is an increase from one-fourth in 1995.

    And that's the Education Report from VOA Learning English, I'm Onka Dekker.