How American educational institutions fail in communities – people’s world
On January 31, 2022, millions of Americans will have to resume paying their student loans when the moratorium that was part of the CARES law expires. It can be argued that the impact of all crises is felt locally. With that in mind, we need to examine the effect ending the moratorium will have on our own communities to understand the $ 2 trillion student loan crisis plaguing the country.
Seeing the student loan crisis through the prism of the three community colleges in Eastern Connecticut and how the state’s educational institutions are trying to respond to this crisis shows that Connecticut is not responding to the interests of the population.
First, it’s important to note that all student debt relief is good student debt relief. Any action taken to liberate the oppressed and open the doors of opportunity is to be commended. But these actions must also be analyzed to understand the contribution they make to the overall objective of building a society that prioritizes people and the planet.
In July of this year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Terrence Cheng, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU), told residents that the CSCU would cancel $ 17 million in funding. debt for 18,161 current and recent community college students. There is no doubt that this action will have a positive impact on the students who qualify, and it should be understood as a small step in the right direction. But we must not exaggerate what has been done.
As is often the case with these kinds of ads, the devil is in the details.
In his announcement, Cheng said, “By eliminating the debt these students owe to institutions, we are removing a barrier that is preventing far too many people from continuing their educational journey… If an account balance bothered you, you can now enroll in Classes”
This statement reveals the limited scope of CSCU’s action and exposes the underlying inequity embedded in our current model of borrow-to-learn education. For many first-generation and low-income students, there are significant barriers preventing them from obtaining an education in the United States. One of those hurdles that students have to overcome is their account balance.
The account balance for each semester shows the various fees that a student must pay before they can register for courses. These fees vary considerably from one establishment to another. They can range from costs for returning books to the library to costs for textbooks and meal plans. For many institutions, if a student has an unpaid balance on their account, whether small or insignificant, the student cannot register for classes the following semester until they find a way to pay. . Essentially, the student is kicked out of their school because they or their family cannot afford the upfront money needed to keep their place in a classroom.
Cheng’s announcement inadvertently exposes a deep crisis in Connecticut’s education program. Its announcement reveals that 18,161 students – up to 20% of CSCU’s current 85,000 students – cannot continue their studies because they cannot remove an economic barrier to entry. If every dollar of the $ 17 million in relief is divided equally among the targeted students, the implication is that 20% of CSCU students cannot afford an expense of $ 946.
Cheng and the administration are failing to address the structural cause of the student debt crisis, which involves rising costs and increasing exposure to brutal student loan terms. Instead, their action only reforms an ancillary layer of iniquity while leaving the core of exploitation in place.
In Eastern Connecticut, there are three community colleges within the CSCU network that have students who may be qualified for this relief program. According to data collected by the Federal Department of Education, approximately 5% of enrolled students receive federal student loans. This means that the vast majority of community college students in Eastern Connecticut are either forced to pay for their education out of pocket or thrown into the cold arms of private lenders.
Even more worrying is the fact that among CSCU Eastern Connecticut Community College students who borrow from the federal government, over 60% of borrowers are no longer able to repay their loans or have fallen behind on their loans because their loans. monthly payments are exceeded. by interest rates.
Surprisingly, 69% of federal borrowers who graduated from Three Rivers Community College in Norwich in the past two years are falling behind on their loans because they cannot afford the $ 93 a month they owe the Federal Department of Justice. ‘Education. Likewise, 66% of borrowers at Middlesex Community College in Middletown couldn’t afford similar monthly payments. Data for Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson is not available.
With the above context in mind, it’s surprisingly obvious that the solution to the nearly $ 2 trillion national student debt crisis isn’t piecemeal tinkering. We need an outright abolition of student debt. This urgent community need, however, has not reached the ears of CSCU decision-makers. This is because the CSCU is not a democratically responsive institution, nor is it designed to meet the political needs of the people.
The CSCU is governed, like other public education organizations across the country, by a board of directors. These directors, “members” in Connecticut, sit on the Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR). The BOR has 21 members. Only 11 of them have real voting rights that guide policy and are each appointed by the Governor or the Assembly. The other 10 non-voting members (ex-officio members in Connecticut) are made up of unelected students, faculty, and commissioners.
Of the 11 voting members, only one attended a community college. Only two are African-American. None are young or students. In other words, despite what the BOR may say in its statutes and press releases, the members who actually control CSCU policies do not reflect the demographic and working-class nature of the community they govern. It is therefore natural that they do not understand the needs of the community they govern.
This isolated body of unelected decision-makers cannot respond effectively or practically to the needs of the community. Connecticut BOR and President Cheng may have had good intentions with their July announcement, but it’s action that doesn’t really meet the needs of working-class students.
Education in Connecticut is too expensive. There are too many barriers to entry. Student debt chains workers to jobs that exploit them and cannot afford to leave. To address the student loan crisis and the needs of the Connecticut working class, the BOR must be replaced by democratically elected student and staff councils.
Politicians absolutely cannot represent the needs of workers because they are isolated by politics, politics, procedure, class, experience and geography. In order for the interests of the people to be represented, their institutions must be made up of the people.
Students at Community College in Eastern Connecticut and across Connecticut are being called to action.
Demand real student debt relief!
Demand full funding for higher education!
Demand the removal of account balances!
Demand Full Democratic Control Over Community Colleges!
We must advocate for reforms that meet needs on and off campus.
As with all editorials published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.