College plays an important role in our society, both educationally and professionally. However, the business aspect of the institution cannot be ignored. The more important it becomes, the more expensive it becomes. Because of this, we find ourselves in the middle of a loan repayment crisis. People are just flat out not repaying their loans. What do we do? There are already penalties in place, yet people default just the same. Maybe the government should pick up the tab.

Reform Theories

In some states, there have been ideas put forward to make higher education (much like K-12 education) a ‘burden’ of the state. There’s a pretty serious catch, though. The schools only get the money if they are producing graduates who are ready to join the workforce. Moreover, they have to actively look for cost-saving avenues of their own. For quite a while now, universities have been taking people’s money, giving them a diploma (if they graduate) and sending them off seemingly unconcerned with their future success or failure. When you consider the perception that colleges enjoy as the only way to conventional professional success, it seems as they’ve been dropping the ball for some time now. Under this proposed plan, graduation rates and employment rates will be the focal point. If colleges don’t make the grade, they don’t get paid. Not only that, but schools will be required to create more three-year degree programs and to incentivize the majors with the most practical application.  If these changes were ever somehow implemented, it would put an end to the free lunch many universities have been enjoying in the form of tuition costs.

Reform Realities

Changes exactly like these were proposed in Wisconsin. As with everything else at the moment, it became more of a political issue than an education issue. When colleges inevitably don’t live up to, what’s become their de facto purpose, the government will slash their budgets and everybody loses. As it turns out, threatening people with getting less money has mixed results. Typically, those who were actually resting on their laurels will step up. Unfortunately, those who can’t step up are the ones that need the funding the most, so taking it away only makes things worse. It is a deeply imperfect solution at best.

Free Community College

The fact that Community College is the butt of many jokes is really sad. Not only does it offer opportunities to those who might not otherwise get them, it does so at a fraction of the cost. Now some cities are starting to offer it to its residents for free! How ‘free’ it actually is can be debated, seeing as it’s paid for with tax money. But, it’s still a great help to many students who struggle financially. Plans like this are sprouting up all over the country, usually with special conditions necessary for qualification. These conditions aren’t usually anything outrageous, just things like graduating from high school, having a certain grade point average or filing for FAFSA (which every college student should do anyway).

Going Out-of-State

While some of these changes are better than others, unless you actually live in an area offering them, you might be out of luck. It’s not impossible to get resident status for school, but it’s harder than most people would qualify as feasible. While you can still benefit from tuition and curriculum reform, the out of state costs of attendance can make any positive changes seem like a wash.

So, is it worth it?

It depends. If a school has a curriculum that is targeted towards your professional goals, with better internship possibilities than you can find in your state, it could be worth it in the long run to eat the higher tuition costs. If the government won’t push schools to increase the employment rate of their graduates, added it to your own college search parameters. Loan repayment laws are changing all the time, at least at the federal level. Your ability to pay for school when you finish has become more important than the initial price tag. Best of luck out there!