Alexander Says College Is More Affordable Than Most Students Think

Thursday, March 27, 2014

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander Thursday said that college is more affordable than most students think, arguing that “perspective” was necessary in the discussion over whether overborrowing by college students is a serious problem.

Senator Alexander said, “I don’t think I’ve ever run into anybody who said it’s pretty easy to pay for college. My experience is probably like everybody else’s: I had no money, so I had two scholarships and five jobs to try to make my way through. But college is more affordable than most students think.”

Senator Alexander, in a hearing Thursday of the Senate education committee where he is the senior Republican, explained that about 40 percent of college students “attend community colleges where the average tuition and fees are under $3,300. Those students receive an average of $4,800 in grants and scholarships, so that the average community college student in America is receiving about $1,500 more in grants and scholarships than it costs in tuition and fees. In fact, Governor Haslam is working to advertise that in our state so that he can encourage more people to go to college. Another 37 percent of college students attend public four-year universities. The average in-state tuition and fees is about $8,900, and those students receive on average $5,800 in grants and scholarships, leaving them to pay $3,100 on average, in tuition and fees.”

Senator Alexander said that, according to the New York Federal Reserve, at the end of 2012, “Forty percent of borrowers had [student loan] debt of less than $10,000; 70 percent had a debt of less than $25,000; and less than four percent had a debt of more than $100,000.”

Adding further context to those figures, Senator Alexander cited the College Board’s finding that the average college graduate “earns more than a million dollars more over a lifetime” than those without college degrees.

The senator continued: “It’s important for students to know as they think about going to college that it can be affordable and most students don’t have to borrow too much money if they borrow wisely.” 

Senator Alexander, a former president of the University of Tennessee and U.S. education secretary under President George H.W. Bush, expressed interest in studying further what he believes to be the real problem: “An Inspector General’s report from the U.S. Department of Education warns that some students borrow excessively for personal expenses not related to their education. That is a growing phenomenon. So, overborrowing may be partly the result of government policy and I think in future hearings we should talk about various ways that have been suggested to limit the overborrowing that saddles some students with too much debt, such as the current practice of allowing students who are enrolled part-time to take out as much in federal loans as a full-time student, or perhaps we should provide colleges with the authority to set some borrowing limits. These are things we will have to discuss.”

Thursday’s hearing was the eighth in a series of hearings the committee is holding on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.


LAUNCH Has Youth Entrepreneurship Competition Sunday

LAUNCH is holding their 6th annual Youth Entrepreneurship Competition on Sunday at 4 p.m. in UTC's Benwood Auditorium. Students from Howard High School, Brainerd High School, Tyner Academy, East Ridge High School, and Red Bank High School have been working on their business plans this fall semester, and will be pitching their businesses to a panel of esteemed judges for three ... (click for more)

STEM Network And TVA Provide STEM Grants To Schools

Chattanooga and Cleveland schools are among the 18 statewide recipients of the yearly competitive STEM classroom grants that the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network (TSIN), Battelle Education, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced Thursday.  (A complete list of schools funded appears at the end of this article.)   Since 2012, the TSIN and TVA have ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Council Looking Into Taking Over Schools

A new group of Signal Mountain Town Council members is looking into taking over county schools within the town boundaries.   Two newly elected board members, Amy Speek and Dan Landrum, joined the council Friday afternoon at the first work session after the election. The election of mayor and vice mayor for the next two years came first on the agenda. Dick Gee, mayor ... (click for more)

East Ridge Meth Dealer Gets 168 Months In Federal Prison

A man that agents said was dealing large quantities of meth from his East Ridge residence has been sentenced to serve 168 months in federal prison. Kenneth Lemons appeared before Judge Curtis Collier. Agents said they made several controlled drugs buys from Lemons at his residence in 2015. On Oct. 27, 2015, he drove up to a residence where DEA agents were making a controlled ... (click for more)

Tennessee River Gorge Trust Trail Warriors Make You Want To Take A Hike

Trail warriors of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust make you want to take a hike.  The Tennessee River Gorge Trust staff and volunteers make a huge difference in the Chattanooga community and have been making the outdoor areas around the River Gorge clean and protected for more than 30 years.  They deserve to be recognized and praised for all of the hard work they have ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Why Our Schools Stink

Cheryl Roddy has spent her lifetime, for the biggest part, as a teacher for the Hamilton County Department of Education and, more specifically, at East Ridge High School. She has loved teaching there for nearly 40 years and is hardly “average;” she has her master's degree in education, was twice East Ridge’s teacher of the year, was the first teacher at East Ridge to reach the first ... (click for more)