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College students’ growing debt load is a drag — and increasingly, a target for lawmakers

by Robert T. Garrett | Dallas Morning News |

 

Outgoing state Comptroller Susan Combs on Tuesday released an interactive, online report about the growing burden of rising tuition and debt for public college students in Texas.

Within hours, Sen. Charles Schwertner, a fellow Republican who has gained clout in the Texas Senate recently, filed legislation to freeze tuition and fees at state universities and create a sales tax holiday for purchases of college textbooks.

Combs’ special report, which you can view here, examines the results of the Legislature’s 2003 decision to deregulate tuition and that decision’s convergence with national trends, which also were very unfriendly to prospective college students.

In 2012, about 20 percent of student loan debt holders in Texas were more than 90 days delinquent on their debt, she said. For graduates who had not turned 30 in 2011, the average loan-debt balance was $22,600, or 46 percent of average yearly earnings — $49,112.

“It’s disturbing that the price of higher education seems to be climbing out of reach for many Texans,” Combs said in a statement. “If college becomes possible only for the few, our young people and our nation will suffer for it. Our kids will find themselves squeezed out of their best chance for financial success, and America will miss out on the productivity and innovation of many of our best minds.”

Between 2004 and 2012, while household inflation increased by 22 percent, the average Texas student’s debt balance grew by 61 percent, she noted.

For young parents, one interactive chart Combs published should be particularly scary. If current trends hold, today’s 3 year old Texans will graduate with an average of $50,000 of debt.

While tuition and fees at Texas’ public universities last year still were 4 percent below the U.S. average of $8,893, the growth rate for in-state tuition and fees here between 1990 and 2010 was 344 percent, far exceeding that of the four other most populous states, Combs’ report shows.

Schwertner, who’s the new head of the Senate’s health and social services panel, said tuition and fees have increased since the 2003 deregulation by “an astounding” 222 percent.

“Are we really expected to believe that the value of an undergraduate degree is worth twice what it was only a decade ago,” he said in a release. “It’s time to demand that our public universities live within their considerable means and work to provide affordable and attainable higher education for Texas students.”

One of his bills would allow tuition and fees to increase with the Consumer Price Index, but no faster. The other would exempt purchase of college textbooks from the state’s 6-1/4 percent sales tax at the start of each semester. Below are three more charts from Combs’ graphics-filled report.

Nationwide, the debt load has been an economic drag on younger people

Growth of Texas college students' debt loads has outstripped inflation

You may also view here: http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2014/12/college-students-growing-debt-load-is-a-drag-and-increasingly-a-target-for-lawmakers.html/