On Monday, Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed increasing federal spending by $350 billion to provide college student debt relief. Here are a few ways to lower student debt for Arkansans without becoming even more dependent on ever increasing federal spending when we already have a federal debt crisis.
• Demand our school districts partner with our state colleges to expand college concurrent credit, and set audacious goals like Springdale, Pea Ridge, and Greenbrier have for their students to graduate high school with an associates degree.
• Create 3-year degree program alternatives (90-100 credit hours) that eliminate unnecessary elective course requirements.
• Phase out the highest income families in Arkansas from eligibility for the lottery scholarship so scholarship dollars are maximized to middle class and lower income families.
• Create a state task force of Higher Ed leaders, professors, students, and legislators on how to make the delivery of higher education more efficient.
• Create a statewide campaign to market the benefits of saving for college in a 529 savings plan in order to get state tax deductions for contributions while sheltering the income/gains from these savings from taxation.
• Create incentives for state Higher Ed institutions to embrace online course delivery to lower costs while providing more delivery flexibility for students to fit around their work schedules.
• Encourage high school students to go to college in state where tuition and the cost of living is lower.
• Request chancellors and university boards limit tuition hikes.
• Encourage our residents who are able to provide more needs-based scholarships to our residents.
• Create a State climate that is pro-growth/pro-business to attract and retain employers who can provide quality jobs for graduates so they can pay off their student debt sooner rather than later.
I am pleased to share with you that progress is being made in numerous communities throughout our state with strategies such as those mentioned above to lower student debt and increase degree completion rates.
The best solution to lower student debt in the future isn’t more and more spending by the federal government on education, and all the federal controls that come with it. The best solution for our state and children is to step on the gas pedal to accelerate the path many communities are on to expand and improve upon innovative educational delivery models through collaboration and coordination of state and local community leaders.