Congressman John Carney (D-Del) hosted a roundtable discussion July 15 on the rising cost of higher education.
The forum was attended by parents, guidance counselors, and a college financial aid official, who offered insights into the current financial aid system and the information students and their families have available to them before deciding to take on college debt.
"The cost of higher education is rising at an unsustainable rate that many American families simply cannot afford. And it's happening at a time when global economic competition is making higher education and training more important than ever," said Congressman Carney. "We need to find a way to make college more affordable for average, hard-working Americans. I'm meeting with parents, counselors, and others who work with the current college financial aid system so that I can better understand the process and where there is room for improvement."
Over the past three decades, college costs have gone up 570 percent. They've increased at four times the median household income, and twice as fast as health care costs. The total U.S. student loan debt recently topped $1 trillion, which surpassed the total owed on both auto loans and credit card debt.
"The financial aid process is not as streamlined or simple as it should be," said Doryann Barnhardt, interim associate director for financial aid at Delaware State University. "That leads to many families not having realistic expectations of how much college costs. The current system is squeezing out a lot of students, particularly those from middle class families who earn too much to qualify for federal grants, but still have a significant need."
The meeting was held at the Public Service Commission's Hearing Room in Dover. Participants included: Doryann Barnhardt, interim associate director for financial aid at Delaware State University; Jennifer Davis, president of the Delaware School Counselors' Association; Amanda Gonye, parent and active member of the Delaware State PTA; Yvonne Johnson, president of the Delaware State PTA; Joel Lang, counselor at Salesianum School; Mary Maslar, college counselors at the Charter School of Wilmington; Karen Sundquist, counselor at Milford High School.