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Press release/statement

Demos Response to the President's Speech on College Affordability and Student Debt

“Demos applauds President Obama for using the bully pulpit to shine a light on the college affordability and student debt crisis facing our nation. While Congress and state legislatures have failed to lead on this issue, the President’s tour promises to help highlight the dangers of tying opportunity to debt.

“Regarding the proposed new ratings system, we agree that students need objective information about what really matters for student success. We also believe that bad schools that prey on hard-working students should simply not be allowed to exist.  The rest—the vast majority of our institutions—need the levels of public support that were the formula for success for previous generations: stable funding for instruction, and grants, not loans, for students.

“In fact, we would propose an additional ratings system: why don’t we rate state legislatures on their per-student investment in higher education? The President rightly called out states for cutting higher education funding, which our research shows is the driving force behind skyrocketing tuition increases. Dēmos’ 50-state report, The Great Cost Shift, shows that some states have been even more cavalier than others – although all have shortchanged students by a national average of more than 25 cents on the dollar over the past two decades.

It is time to end the ‘debt-for-diploma’ system once and for all.

"At Demos, we believe that it is time to end the ‘debt-for-diploma’ system once and for all. An interest-bearing loan is not financial aid.  It is a roadblock that keeps 100,000 qualified low-income college students from enrolling every year, and it is a burden that drains nearly 20 percent of a graduate’s wealth over their lifetime, according to our new research

"The President’s attention to this untenable reality is welcome. Now it’s the job of advocates, students, and parents to organize. We must demand the transformative solutions that may seem out of reach, and not stop until what’s truly necessary is politically possible.”

Heather McGhee, Vice President of Policy & Outreach

Robert Hiltonsmith, policy analyst and author of At What Cost? How Student Debt Reduces Lifetime Wealth, is available for comment.