Proposal One: Increased Financial Assistance for First-Year Students
The objective of this program is to eliminate or at least substantially reduce the amount of debt incurred by first-year students. Schools that wish to participate in this program would be required to match 25 percent of the federal contribution. The program would be open to all accredited private and public schools. Schools would be required to publish information on the percent of first-year students incurring debt along with information on the income of their student body.
There are three reasons why most increases in financial assistance should be targeted towards first-year students.
First, a program targeting financial aid for students entering their freshman year is the most effective way to encourage additional study and training for people who might otherwise be deterred because of financial risk.
Second, either the student borrower or the government must pay interest on student loans as soon as the loan is granted. As a result, debt incurred in the freshman year is more expensive to either the borrower or the government than debt incurred later in the student’s career.
Third, many students drop out of college early in their academic career and these students who leave college early in their career often have problems repaying their loans because they have lower starting salaries than those who stay in school. As a result, a reduction in student debt incurred during the freshman year should have a larger impact on student loan default and delinquency rates than a reduction in student debt incurred by upper class students or graduate students.
The proposal presented here is less ambitious than the ones offered by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
It is also less administratively burdensome more fiscally responsible and fairer towards private universities.
Hillary Clinton’s proposal would provide grants for tuition assistance only in states that fund public universities at a high level. Her proposal also includes penalties for universities that fail to meet certain goals including reducing costs, earnings of graduates, and reduced tuition. These conditions are problematic because state differ in their resources and priorities. Moreover, this approach would favor state university systems that emphasized research over teaching.
This proposal requires schools to contribute 25 percent of the cost of grants to first-year students. Schools could reasonably choose to forego the grants if they did not want to contribute their share. Schools and states should be able to maintain this contribution level during economic down turns.
The proposal should require universities to publish information about the percent of students with debt after their first year of school. The federal government should provide information about how this statistic differs for different types of schools and is affected by other variables like the percent of students from lower income families.
The tuition assistance grants should be available for private as well as public institutions. Any accredited institution that is willing to contribute 25 percent of the cost of the grants should be eligible for the program. The Clinton or Sanders approaches would both have reduced enrollment at private schools. This approach might encourage more people to transfer from private to public schools after completion of their first year of college.
The second proposal involves the allocation of work-study funds for positions at private companies.
Proposal Two: Improvements to Work Study and College Internships