Let’s focus on the cost of college

The average U.S. college student walks off campus with about $26,500 in student loan debt, much of it in government-subsidized low-interest loans. Typically, students have 10 years to pay off the debt.

Members of Congress now are under fire because interest rates on new Stafford loans have increased to 6.8 percent, up from 3.4 percent. Analysts say that will add about $2,600 to the typical student’s debt load – less than $22 a month on a 10-year repayment.

Largely for political reasons, President Barack Obama and liberal lawmakers are accusing conservatives in Congress of failing their responsibility to young Americans.

But conservatives worry that the government cannot afford deficit spending on programs such as student loans. They are right.

Consider this: An American college graduate’s share of the national debt is about $53,000 – twice the average student loan burden. And somehow, some way, the national debt will have to be paid, too.

In some ways, the cost of a college education is like the cost of health care. We tend to focus on how to pay for it, rather than on why it costs so much in the first place. When people have health insurance, they tend not to question the high cost of the medical tests and procedures they receive. With college tuition, as long as the government is providing grants, low-rate loans and financing, students aren’t going to question why it costs so much to attend college, or ask whether the college could be using its funds more efficiently.

Lowering the cost of education will be much more effective at reducing college loan debt than groaning about the interest rate government charges.

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