Graduation at William Penn University was Saturday. Graduation is my favorite time — when I see the big smiles and the cheers of families and friends for this major accomplishment. I am humbled to be a part of students’ growth and maturity.
However, I realize that these smiles will soon fade when facing their student debt. In Iowa, the average student loan is now $30,000. Funding at the state level is being cut for higher education. Tuition is going up again. Tuition has increased almost 30 percent in the last 10 years, and interest rates are rising. Student loan debt will increase in the future.
Education is the great equalizer. College graduates earn approximately $1 million more over their lifetimes – that is if they graduate. As an advisor I heard many times that students weren’t returning because the cost was too high; parents’ debt load was maxed out and they couldn’t afford the Parent Plus loans. What breaks my heart are the students who leave after one or two years with college debt and no degree.
The State of Iowa needs to invest in public higher education. Students and parents should not have to decide between paying for education and paying for daily necessities. Iowa needs an educated workforce to feed the businesses that are here and to attract more businesses.
We cannot continue to neglect our public higher education; Iowa needs to be the leader once again in providing an affordable, quality education. This can only happen if Iowa returns to education as a priority.