To the editor:
As students prepare to graduate this upcoming May, many are excited to start a new chapter in their life — either continuing their education through graduate school or starting a new career. Before beginning this new chapter, however, many students must undergo the grueling task of paying back their student loan debt.
Student loan debt continues to burden 37 million Americans. With an increase in students relying on loans, many are finding it increasingly difficult to attend college due to the tremendous amount of debt accumulated in the process. Total student loan debt has risen 511 percent over the past 13 years. The average student graduates with over $26,000 of debt.
Recent cuts to financial assistance programs have only made the situation worse. In New York, former Governor Paterson’s restrictions on eligibility for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) made it harder for many students to qualify for aid and eliminated TAP for graduate students. Paterson’s administration enacted several detrimental changes to TAP, including the denial of future aid to students in default on any state or federal student loans, reductions of the maximum TAP awards to married students with no children and increased academic standards for eligibility of non-remedial students.
This is a critical point in the lives of college students, and in order to protect access to an affordable college education, students from all academic fields and regions must join forces and have our voices heard. With New York’s budget process looming, Binghamton University students have the opportunity to make a real difference in New York’s investment in higher education.
Enough is enough. In tough economic times like these, finding a job and financing for graduate school is already a daunting task. New York policymakers can and should do more to alleviate our student loan debt burden.
Class of 2013