UC Berkeley panel discusses student loans, costs of higher education

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Karin Goh/Staff

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Members of the UC Berkeley community discussed student loans and the rising costs of higher education across the nation at a panel Monday, voicing concerns about a general lack of student financial literacy and an absence of action to support public higher education.

At the panel, hosted by the campus’s Goldman School of Public Policy on Monday, UC Berkeley students, faculty and administrators were joined by U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord — who during the event announced the introduction of a bill that would reduce interest rates for college loans — for a discussion on student loans and the rising costs of higher education.

The panel focused on two related topics: the importance of student financial knowledge and the general political climate surrounding financing higher education.

“A number of students are just confused about where they should seek help,” said UC Berkeley senior Anthony Abril during the panel, where he discussed in depth the importance of financial literacy among college students.

Students attending the event echoed Abril’s concern about how students interact with their loans.

“Financial literacy is extremely important in general,” said Raj Bhargava, a UC Berkeley undergraduate who works in the ASUC Student Advocate’s Office. “Colleges should share some responsibility in educating their students about finances.”

Anne De Luca, a panelist and associate vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment, asserted that UC Berkeley has been quite effective in providing students a public education and helping them understand their financial options, but acknowledged that more can be done.

“Students need to be informed about what’s affecting them,” Abril said.

Students nationwide could be affected by a bill officially introduced by DeSaulnier during the panel that aims to decrease interest rates for student loans to a rate similar to that offered to banks by the Federal Reserve. Discussing the bill, DeSaulnier argued that college students shouldn’t have to pay higher interest rates than big banks.

“In a knowledge-based economy, there’s nothing more important to deal with inequality and poverty than knowledge,” DeSaulnier said during the panel, adding later that “the investment (in education) really stimulates the economy.”

Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman School, also acknowledged the broader importance of higher education and said that because higher education provides societal benefits, there should be societal incentives for its funding.

“By any estimation you can do, it’s worth it to go to college and complete it,” Brady said during the panel.

The panelists did not come to a concise conclusion on how best to deal with the problems posed by student loans and higher education funding, but they agreed student knowledge and involvement is essential.

Contact Maxwell Jenkins-Goetz at [email protected].