Why has increasing the accessibility and affordability of college become a partisan issue? In the past, Republicans and Democrats both saw education as the foundation of our society. President Ronald Reagan once said that our educational system will decide whether our “future is enlightened, free and informed, or shrouded in the darkness of ignorance.”
Now, more than ever, we need Democrats and Republicans to join again in support for college students and their families. With the state of Louisiana allocating less money per student to colleges almost every year, Louisiana colleges have increased their tuition and fees, forcing college students and their families to incur more debt to pay for school. According to The Advocate, the average Louisiana college graduate now leaves school with over $22,000 in debt.
Like a ball and chain, student debt is preventing college graduates from moving through our society’s milestones and into the middle class. Student loan debt is preventing graduates from saving up for down payments on their first homes, starting their own businesses and getting married.
Republicans, however, continue to vote for cuts to higher education programs that lower the cost of student loans. Even Bill Cassidy, whose congressional district includes Louisiana’s flagship university, voted for a federal budget that would have eliminated LSU’s ability to subsidize the cost of loans for its students.
It seems that student loan reform could be a promising area for bipartisanship. The approval rating for Congress is at an all-time low and student debt is at an all-time high. If Republicans and Democrats can work together to unshackle the student debt ball and chain from our students, graduates and their families, they may be able to help fix both.