Tim Furnish: We Don’t Need Another Student Loan Repayment Program

Roundup: Historians' Take

Tim Furnish has a PhD in Islamic, World and African History and works as an author and consultant. His website is www.mahdiwatch.org and he can be reached at jinnandtonic@yahoo.com

For the past several weeks the massive and ubiquitous student loan debt of American college graduates has been a major news story, along with the attempts by President Obama, Mitt Romney, and the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to make political hay of the issue while ostensibly advancing plans for resolving it. Of the ideas floated, President Obama’s appears the least serious and most political, particularly because his approach would expand the scope of federally subsidized loans — in effect pouring good money after bad.

According to the most recently compiled data, the average college student graduating in 2010 owed an average of $25,250.  According to the marketing research division of American Student Assistance (which advises collegians on loans and debts), there are approximately 37 million Americans with some outstanding student loan debt. This spring another 1.7 million will graduate with bachelor’s degrees, as well as 833,000 with associate’s degrees, 696,000 with master’s degrees, 102,000 with professional degrees, and about 74,000 with doctorates (happily, Starbucks should have no problem filling its ranks with the latter). The cumulative student loan debt which right now stands at approximately $870 billion will no doubt increase even more....

The largest and most potentially lucrative loan repayment source is the U.S. military. For certain enlisted jobs, up to $65,000 of student loans can be repaid (the maximum currently authorized by Congress). At this juncture only the active duty Army will allow that $65k maximum (for a three-year enlistment, 1/3 per year), but all the other branches except the Marines have some form of substantial loan repayment available (albeit usually for a four-year hitch): Army Reserves, $20,000; Air Force and Navy active duty and Reserves, $10,000; Air National Guard, $20,000....

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