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Student loan debt: The government broke it, and must fix it

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The U.S. hit its debt limit — currently $31.4 trillion — in January 2023, triggering a high-stakes and potentially disastrous political fight.

On Monday, the Trump administration rolled out a plan to comprehensively address the “Game of Loans” in American higher education — the insidious nexus of student loans to pay for education, the rising tuition rates at U.S. colleges and universities, and the myth that having a college degree of any kind is more important than learning a marketable skill.  

The administration set forth clear goals in its Proposals to Reform the Higher Education Act, which Ivanka Trump unveiled at a meeting of the National Council for the American Worker Act. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos lauded the proposals as “an important roadmap for working with Congress” on meaningful reforms.

{mosads}When I founded Turning Point USA in 2012, I primarily wanted to combat the bias on college campuses toward socialist ideas and the indoctrination of students into believing that the United States is inherently flawed. On college campuses across the country, I discovered a much deeper problem: college students studying esoteric disciplines that would provide them with no hope of employment after graduation. And most of these students would be deeply in debt from student loans, once they left the friendly confines of campus.  

According to, as of 2016, student loan debt for the average graduate was $37,172 and total student loan debt nationwide was at $14 trillion. That debt, alarmingly, mirrors the mortgage market bubble and collapse of 2007.  

The administration’s proposal identifies 10 objectives or areas to be addressed:

  1. Reorient the accreditation process to focus on student outcomes. Accreditation groups have become akin to the bond rating agencies that said FannieMae and FreddieMac securities were “good as gold” right up until their cataclysmic collapse.
  2. Increase innovation in the education marketplace. This will encourage more entrepreneurial-driven education outlets to create programs that truly meet the needs of the consumers (students).
  3. Better align education to the needs of today’s workforce. By allowing Pell Grant money to be used to get students certified or licensed in a chosen field, and by expanding the Federal Work Study Program to help low-income students receive work-based learning, we can increase the likelihood of young people securing a paying job upon graduation.
  4. Increase institutional accountability. This makes universities start to assume some of the debt risk and repayment obligations, so they begin to have “skin” in the game of loans. Currently they play with house money — our house.
  5. Accelerate program completion. Forcing repetition of classes and requiring too many “general education” classes adds to the cost, and subsequent indebtedness, for students.
  6. Support Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This essentially will bring a special focus upon these vital institutions to make sure that all the reforms adopted will have amplified emphasis on these campuses.
  7. Encourage responsible borrowing. Inflation is an increase in the overall supply of money, and unconstrained student loans have flooded the higher-ed market with currency.  Setting limits will force the controlling of costs.
  8. Simplify student aid. This will convert the differing income-driven repayment programs into one simple program and expand the current debt-forgiveness program to include the pursuit of any career, not just those in “public service.”
  9. Support returning citizens. One of President Trump’s many accomplishments is his work to address the reintegration of nonviolent offenders into society and help them become productive, contributing citizens. This is another step along that path.
  10. Give prospective students more useful information about schools and programs. Free markets work best when there is more information for the consumer to evaluate. In a nation obsessed with truth in labeling and calorie count disclosure, it is time for more information to be shared with incoming college students.  

Some politicians who call themselves conservative already are raising words of caution and complaint against these ideas because of their professed belief that “we don’t want government intervening into education.” But government already is intervening in education — and is largely responsible for the problems involving student loans. Government broke it and needs to fix it.

These proposed reforms would go a long way toward changing the landscape of education. (Next, we can chip away at the indoctrination that happens on American campuses.)

But first we need to get the administration’s ideas converted into legislation, and with a Democratic House, unfortunately there is little chance of passage prior to 2021. Democrats are fully invested in the Game of Loans and they are not likely to write off that investment. The system is specifically designed to help their side. That said, Democrats need to be put on record.  The American people should hear the debate over higher education issues so they can make informed choices at the polls in 2020. This represents the future of their children and our nation.

Every American should take the time to explore the problem and read the administration’s proposed solutions. Just as “Game of Thrones” has reached its final season, the Game of Loans needs to fade to black.

Charlie Kirk is the founder and president of Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit that aims to educate students on free-market values. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieKirk11.

Tags Betsy DeVos Donald Trump economy Higher education in the United States Ivanka Trump Student debt Student loan

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