Saturday, January 28, 2023

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Student Loan Forgiveness Impact on SD Trade Schools

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Friday, August 26, 2022   

Reactions keep pouring in following this week's student loan forgiveness announcement by President Joe Biden.

In South Dakota, the trade school community said affordability is on the mind of leaders right now, too. Biden's action means millions of borrowers are poised to see their remaining loan balances forgiven, with specific caps and income requirements. It's meant for those with a federal "Direct Loan."

Nick Wendell, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Technical Education, said it is likely some relief will go to trade school students. The two-year institutions are less expensive options, but Wendell pointed out they have dealt with similar operating headaches.

"The cost of everything over the last five years has increased, and we have felt some of that," Wendell acknowledged. "The cost of supplies, the cost of labor, the cost of managing our campuses and our buildings and our facilities has all increased."

In the face of those challenges, Wendell emphasized they have tried to control costs, including a recent tuition freeze, although there had been incremental increases since 2017. Still, the board argued the state's technical schools are a good option for future students worried about taking on too much debt, who can then enter the workforce without years of payments eating up their income.

Wendell suggested affordability should be addressed for all postsecondary schools, so the public sees the value of higher education, no matter which type of school a person attends. He stressed this week's action should not be the only approach to solving the problem.

"If we're not addressing some of the underlying factors, we're going to be back in this same position in five and 10 years," Wendell cautioned. "With a huge number of folks in our population that had to incur debt to get a degree."

Wendell pointed to South Dakota's scholarship program for trade schools, which has funding from industry partners across the state. He thinks education leaders should also be more specific about funding requests, in hopes of getting favorable responses from policymakers.

"To purchase big pieces of equipment, or create learning laboratories and environments [where] students will learn," Wendell suggested. "Those high-ticket items that might drive up the cost of a program and the cost of an individual college credit."

He added collective efforts could keep costs lower and not scare people away from considering higher education.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.


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