University of Wisconsin-Madison associate professor Sara Goldrick-Rab testified in front of a group of United States senators Tuesday, saying higher education’s dependence on student loans is having a detrimental effect on college affordability and accessibility.
Goldrick-Rab, a faculty member in the departments of sociology and educational policy studies, told committee members the increasing availability of student loans in recent years has allowed universities to expand prices and has led to a mirrored “de facto” increase in universities’ budgets.
She said many public institutions are also in an “arms race” with private institutions, making the price of education synonymous with quality of education. Additionally, research shows annual family income has decreased, Goldrick-Rab said, while the net price of college has increased, putting it out of reach for most Americans.
“There has never been a more important time to address the issue college affordability,” Goldrick-Rab said to members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education and Labor Pensions. “College is now the main road to a stable, secure life.”
Instead of loan dependence followed by large sums of debt, Goldrick-Rab argued in favor of a low-tuition model supplemented with federal programs, such as the Pell Grant, for need-based aid.
“[Colleges] will adjust, they will have to adjust,” Goldrick-Rab said. “They [will] have to look at their own bottom lines.”
She said students today are “just as responsible and ready to work.” However, she added asking students to both hold a job and take out loans has made college affordability impossible.
Goldrick-Rab also advocated for additional financial aid resources for “non-traditional” students, such as older adult students and students at technical colleges, who have become the majority in recent years.