More than $1.4 trillion; that’s how much we — fellow students and former students — across the country owe today in federal student loans, and there are no signs of student borrowing slowing down.

Each year, Creighton University administers more than $200 million in financial aid. Much of that is in the form of Creighton scholarships and grants, and outside scholarships and grants. But a large portion of the 94 percent of Creighton students who receive financial aid also take on student loans as part of that assistance. Not all need it, but clearly many here and across the United States rely on federal loans for their undergraduate and graduate education. 

According to the College Board, the majority of student loans are made up of either subsidized or unsubsidized direct federal loans. Subsidized loans accrue no interest until after the student has graduated. Unsubsidized loans begin to accrue interest immediately while students are still completing their education.

This massive amount of student debt has made discussion of some form of “loan forgiveness” a hot topic among U.S. politicians and even some employers. But there is a compromise solution that has so far been overlooked – at least in the United States. The current student loan system, with interest rates from 4 to 7 percent or higher, is not sustainable. In fact, more than 1 million students default each year and 40 percent are expected to default by 2023. So, why is the federal government in the banking business?  

The best way to provide relief would be for the federal government to eliminate interest on federal student loans of all types. As a nation, we should view student loans as an investment in an educated workforce. A workforce that will lead a new generation of companies, start their own businesses, buy homes and support a growing economy. 

Unfortunately, debt relief propositions brought forth by both political parties have been less than desirable. Democratic legislators and candidates have at times called for a reduction in interest rates in combination with other complex measures. And two proposals from the Trump administration are worrying. The administration has suggested elimination of two loan programs: Public Service Loan Forgiveness and subsidized direct student loans. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a program designed to encourage educated workers to apply for government positions – police, fire, teachers, etc. It is one of the few incentives offered to college graduates to take important jobs that often pay less than their private enterprise equivalents. As for eliminating subsidized loans, I can only assume it’s to profit even more from student loan interest. These two proposals are the opposite of loan forgiveness. They will only make student debt even more unpayable. 

It is in the best interest of students, families, universities and our nation to address this problem with common sense and practicality. Current proposals will not solve the problem facing the majority of students in the United States, held back by crippling amounts of debt upon their entrance into the workforce. Our government should not be a bank profiting at students’ expense. Instead, it should be an investor in our education and our future.

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