Durbin pushes more college affordability, faults for-profits

July 23, 2012

Jewell Washington

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is blaming for-profit schools for high student loan debt and said the federal government should hold them more accountable. The Illinois democrat wants to give students more alternatives to private student loans, and encouraged them to consider city and community college.

“It's affordable. It offers a variety of options for you,” he said. “You can learn a little bit about yourself as a student, explore a different area or two, and at the end of it you won't be so deeply in debt that you have no future.”

Durbin is urging financial aid officials to make students more aware of their options to pay for school, aside from private student loans. He argued that if for-profit schools are leaving students poorly trained and in debt, those schools should not have access to federal aid.

Steve Gunderson is the president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a trade group that represents for-profit colleges. He agrees that community colleges are an option for some students, but said for-profit schools are not to blame for rising debt.

“The facts don’t justify that, and it’s unfortunate that Senator Durbin continues this assault on the private sector colleges and universities,” Gunderson said. “We ought to all be working together to find a way to give education and skills to people who need it so they can get real jobs with real income.”

Gunderson said private sector colleges and universities often provide educational opportunities to non-traditional students, such as veterans and parents, who often have limited financial resources or desire career-based skills with certification.

Gunderson said he prefers an Australian income-based model for students to repay their loans – it would allow students to not have to pay on loans if their income falls below $40,000 a year. He said that is a better option than allowing students who borrowed from private lenders to wipe out their debt in bankruptcy.

Durbin is pushing legislation that would allow just that.