Editorial: Student Debt – Forgive it, Forget it

By Brandon Desiderio
May 3, 2012

For students all across the nation, student debt is an earth-shattering reality. The national student debt has risen to $1 trillion, becoming the largest form of debt for Americans – well over credit card debt. As the prices of higher education continually increase all around us, it’s comforting to know that Cabrini is one of very few colleges nationwide who have been able to reverse the process, cutting the costs of their education while others raise the price.

But we’re a small fish in a very, very big pond. And even though the tuition decrease is nice, it is only a small step in the right direction. Loans are still necessary and financial aid packages remain essential as ever; students, no matter what, will gather debt – even if they don’t graduate.

Last week, the parents of Christopher Bryski received good news: they would not have to pay off the student loans taken out by their dead son. Bryski, a Rutgers University student who, in 2006, died of a traumatic brain injury, was still finishing up his undergraduate degree when his life was taken. He owed KeyBank approximately $50,000.

Like a number of similar private lending institutions, KeyBank does not have a concrete policy about what’s to be done with the student loans of a debtor who dies. Their refusal to forgive Bryski’s student debt led to his older brother, Ryan Bryski, starting an online petition early last week in an attempt to get it forgiven. His plan worked: the petition garnered more than 78,000 signatures and KeyBank finally agreed to forgive the loans after six long years.

The difficult situation that the Bryskis were forced into, both financially and emotionally, portrays just one example of how bloodthirsty lenders can be. However, the Bryskis’ story should make every student more cautious and aware of his or her own debts moving forward.

We at the Loquitur believe that the rights to a higher education are undeniable. That being said, there are many obstacles that stand in the way to an equal education and finances are the major barrier. That’s why now, more than ever, it’s important to listen to the debates occurring over student debt in the political world.

Both President Obama and House Republicans have their eyes on the growing debt crisis. Focusing more on federally unsubsidized Stafford loans, which are said to start doubling in interest starting July 1, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, this bipartisan agreement on the state of student debt, especially at the federal level, is worth keeping tabs on.

Also under scrutiny by both the House Republicans and Obama are the Pell Grant programs, which offer grants totaling about $5,500 in maximum awards to students. Again, it’s a unanimous belief on each side of the political spectrum that this program’s future is threatened, its funds decimated by budget shortfalls.

Alleviating the burdens on both of these federal loan programs will unfold differently by party.

Republicans are endorsing the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, who wishes to restrict the awarding of Stafford loans, increasing the eligibility requirements for awardees.

Obama, on the other hand, would prefer to limit in-school interest subsidies and expand the Perkin Loans program, which offers low-interest loans to students in financial need.

As both parties have the basic understanding that the funding of these programs needs to be addressed, the focus on this essential issue is reassuring.

However, we at the Loquitur feel that this ordeal begs one question: why continue how we are, allowing the students of today to become indentured servants to both their governments as well as their banks? Where do we draw the line when the potential educations of others are in jeopardy based on their abilities to pay?

Debt, to us, is an archaic system of falsified trust. We believe that the only way to progress in our modernizing world is to invest in the educations of our neighbors, our fellow Americans – and without capitalizing on their need.

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Brandon Desiderio

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