The Complexity of Student Debt Issues

by Emily Geitner on Mar 21, 2016 9:13:00 AM

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The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education released a research paper that confronts the rising costs of pharmacy education and the increasing loan debt challenge. The paper suggests that student debt issues arise from a complex of factors.

The paper goes on to recommend steps that the pharmaceutical education academy should begin addressing before pharmacy education and student debt issues become cost-prohibitive pathways for future generations.

The problems and solutions for student debt issues presented in this paper need not be restricted to pharmacy schooling, they can easily be applied to medical as well as other professional schooling.

STUDENT DEBT ISSUES

Introduction  

Rising tuition and student debt issues have their origin in the academy, the accreditation process, federal and state governments, universities, and the student and faculty culture.

Reduced State Support

Faced with financial pressures, state legislatures have significantly reduced higher education funding over the last years. No longer able to absorb these cuts, tuition was raised.

Student Personal Finance Awareness

Students and their families must accept personal responsibility for aspects of their financial future. While factors pertaining to tuition, salaries, and job prospects are out of their control, students do make choices that affect their education-related debt. Some students engage in lifestyles that significantly exceed their income while in college. Most students are aware that this is a problem, stating they want more education on financial management topics.

Increased Administrative Costs

In recent years, however, the bulk of labor costs have begun to shift away from faculty toward managerial, technical, and support staff. Institutions and schools now employ large numbers of non–instructional staff members to develop and/or maintain technical systems and to capture, track, record, analyze, and report data for accountability purposes.

Curriculum

Some curricula seem to focus too much on delivering an increasing amount of content instead of focusing on more selective content paired with better instructional strategies. One of the more difficult questions that pharmacy educators need to ask themselves is: “Can we design effective curricula that is delivered more quickly and/or more efficiently (without sacrificing quality), saving students either money or time?”

Arms Race

Factors that enhance reputation (buildings, technology, student amenities) are all costly, thereby incentivizing an academic “arms race” to see who can spend the most money. Colleges and schools of pharmacy are not immune and are continually seeking every possible edge in attracting the highest quality students.

RECOMMENDATIONS 

  1. Integrate required financial management coursework into the curriculum. This coursework needs to be employed early so that the principles such as student debt issues could be discussed throughout the student’s educational career. Curriculum should focus on designing and living within a budget, avoiding unnecessary debt and overuse of credit cards, managing financial aid in a responsible manner, and obtaining financial advice for postgraduate loan repayment, insurance coverage, and timing of large purchases.
  1. Designate an appropriate faculty/staff member or external expert to provide ongoing financial counseling to students throughout their educational career. A designated counselor who can build a level of trust with students might encourage a more open line of communication with and a more receptive response from students.
  1. Inform students of all loan repayment options, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and refinancing student loan debt.
  1. Encourage national pharmacy organizations to provide financial management programming at association meetings that student pharmacists attend. Programming should include student-to-student teaching and best practices, allowing students to share what has worked as well as mistakes to avoid.
  2. Encourage administrators at colleges and schools of pharmacy to assess their institution to ensure that students are not overburdened by the cost of their education. This might necessitate scrutiny of tuition models and internal operations to determine if students are paying only their fair share. At the university level, use of technology should be explored to reduce staff numbers and time necessary to comply with accreditation and other accountability demands. Extracurricular amenities should be closely scrutinized and avoided if they result in additional costs to students without providing added value to their professional education. Additionally, the curriculum should be analyzed to determine if students are loaded with coursework that adds little value to their degree and their ability to practice pharmacy.

If you are overwhelmed by student debt issues and you would like information on how to reduce your student loan payments so you can save more money each month or decrease the length of your loan period, call us today at (844) 226-LINK (5465). We’re here and happy to help. 

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This post was written by Emily Geitner

Emily is Director of Operations & Marketing for LinkCapital and responsible for managing the company’s day-to-day operations as well as leading strategy, marketing, and user experience for all Link consumer products.