Pulitzer prize journalist discusses student debt


Jessica GuerrucciReporter

Whether it is destroying the American dream or putting student’s futures on hold, it is something that many college students are familiar with: student debt.

Two-time Pulitzer prize winning journalist James Steele, discussed the issue of student debt and income inequality. Steele said debt goes against the American dream because rising tuition is making college increasingly difficult to afford, therefore putting equal opportunity for some just out of reach, and for others out the window.

“It’s a terribly complicated problem, and it’s an awfully serious problem, and we need to talk about it, we need to wrestle with ideas,” said Steele “There’s probably no one simple way to solve this.”

Steele said states used to fund 60-70% of higher education costs, but while the number varies between states, the percentage has dropped significantly, and because of that tuition has gone up.

Lewis DeLuca, of the financial literacy coordinator at Southern, said he questions where the state’s money is going if it is not being put towards education.

“I wish the state gave us more money. They haven’t, so basically the university responds, and the system responds by balancing the budget,” he said. “If it’s not coming from the state, it’s coming from the students. Is it right? Is it fair? Nope.”

While DeLuca said why they are not very popular right now, he said he thinks income share agreements would be a good solution.

“Instead of you taking on the excess debt or your parents taking on excess debt, the income share agreement- the way I understand it- is: I take my limit and then there’s an investor that invests in me or you as a student, and then when we graduate, depending on our job and salary, we pay a percentage of our income,” said DeLuca.

Stephen Monroe Tomczak, associate professor of social policy and community organization, and president of the American Association of University Professors at SCSU that co-sponsored the event along with the journalism department and the SCSU chapter of SPJ, said he feels strongly about this issue because he watched as tuition increase over the years.

“I’ve seen it personally, the cost of tuition go up and up and up when I was student here at Southern we paid 500 dollars a semester, my students pay 10 times that amount, and that’s unjust, and it doesn’t have to be,” said Tomczak.

Another issue is the level of awareness about loans. Steele said college is a wonderful time for students, both socially and intellectually. So they are not thinking about student loans and debt until they graduate.

“Students do need to know more about and see what those consequences are, and even if they don’t change their way of life, at least they know what they’re facing,” said Steele.

While educating students on their debt is important, Steele said it does not make the debt go away, and, with the issue of this student debt becoming much bigger, Tomczak said he is committed doing something about the problem.

“The resources are there, and we should be investing these resources in the younger generation, not forcing them into a life time of debt,” said Tomczak. “It’s just wrong.”

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