Help lower students’ debt

West Virginia lawmakers have spent the past year discussing college affordability, as it pertains to their effort to increase enrollment in higher education programs. The amount of debt with which most students graduate can be a heavy burden, and lowering that figure is a priority.

According to the Project on Student Debt, West Virginia ranks 25th in the nation for average debt for recent college graduates, at $26,227. In terms of the number of students who graduate with debt, West Virginia drops to 38th, with 54 percent.

Perhaps another set of numbers should be addressed, if lawmakers are to improve those figures. According to the Chronicle for Higher Education, 47.4 percent of students graduate from West Virginia’s four-year public colleges in six years. A mere 24.7 percent make it out of their programs having paid for only four years. The total percentage of undergraduate-level completions per 100 full-time equivalent undergraduates is a pathetic 17.6.

Colleges and universities are in the business of making money. Their products may be certificates and degrees, but they remain afloat by draining as much out of the students and parents who are purchasing those educations as they can.

If lawmakers are serious about tackling the problem of higher-education affordability and debt, they should first think about encouraging college and university administrators to put more effort into helping students graduate on time, instead of racking up debt they will carry for years.