Trustees at Johnston Community College have decided to opt out of a federal aid program that helps many of their students afford the community college’s education.
JCC officials say federal rules limiting default rates put the college in jeopardy of losing other federal financial support.
It should come as no surprise that defaults on student loans have increased since 2008, when the recession put a squeeze on nearly everyone’s checkbook.
Defaults on many other kinds of loans have skyrocketed.
The school’s decision is clearly a blow to economic recovery efforts. Students who opted to return to school when a previous job dissappeared now find themselves facing mounting costs with fewer resources to meet them.
School officials say the decision was one they didn’t want to make. But recent trends indicate the school could very well be in trouble if defaults continue to rise. To combat that possibility, the school simply chose to stop accepting any additional financial aid.
There was another way.
The decision impacts current students and those who may come in future years. To ease the strains caused by the negative trend, school officials should have limited their decision to future students, allowing existing students to complete their education under the current conditions.
The federal government punishments would take effect after the school passes federal limits for three years in a row. By that time, most students currently enrolled could have completed their schooling without having to slow their progress toward a degree.
Rules that limit the school’s discretion on advancing loans could get in the way of that option, but school leaders would have a good argument to make that extending loans in that manner serves the public good.
As it now stands, though, students at JCC will have to measure their ability to pay against the strength of their need.
That’s not the way educaton should work.