Ky. student loan debt 'crippling' a generation as tuition goes up, says Rep. Quarles

02/29/2012 08:53 AM

A generation of young Kentuckians with college degrees are having to delay major life decisions and start their careers in a financial hole because of rising tuition rates that have doubled the cost of a college degree over the last decade, said Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown.

“I think we can do better,” Quarles said at 2:45 of the video. “Kentucky students leave, if they complete an undergraduate degree, on average with about $20,000 in student loan debt. Student loan debt for the first time in history … will exceed credit card debt.”

Quarles, a 28-year-old freshman legislator, served as the student representative on the Council on Postsecondary Education from 2005 to 2008. He said he is most concerned about the effect of tuition and student loans on his peers.

“For my generation, student loan debt is a crippling effect,” Quarles said (3:10). “I think it’s delaying first time home ownership … I think it’s delaying marriages. I think it’s delaying other critical life decisions that young people are putting off because they have to worry about a higher interest rate or a higher loan payment instead of worrying about a car payment or a mortgage.”

Still, Quarles said he understands the proposed 6.4 percent cuts to Kentucky public universities and colleges for the next biennium given the slow economic return from the recession.

Quarles started by addressing a question about whether the state needs tax reform in order to bring in a more reliable stream of income to the state to pay for programs like education:

“To be fair, whenever the state decides to spend less on higher education, I think the universities deserve to have more flexibility in terms of deciding their own fate,” Quarles said. (6:30)

Quarles also addressed his bill to add duties to a board of student leaders (7:30) and his take on the proposal for the University of Pikeville to be brought into the public university system (8:20).

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or


  • Bruce Layne wrote on February 29, 2012 10:38 AM :

    Government operates outside the free market, and that causes great problems. Because government isn’t under any pressure to produce a profit, it’s the opposite of a free market.

    The free market model for education would be students and their parents paying directly for education. There would be a strong market force to provide cost effective education. Universities would compete to offer the best education at the lowest price.

    The government model for education is the antithesis of the free market, and not surprisingly, produces the opposite effect. Government tries to make education affordable for everyone, so the government guarantees student loans and it provides Pell grants. What happens when anyone can get the money for college? They don’t value their education as much, and the quality of education slips a notch or two. With plenty of government cash flowing into education, there is no cost competition, so the cost of education increases far in excess of the average rate of inflation. With quality decreasing and cost increasing, the value of education is now much lower.

    Graduates are learning this unfortunate fact first hand, as they graduate into a shrinking job market, with few prospects of landing a job because their “education” provides few benefits to potential employers. It’s difficult to repay four years worth of student loans without a job. The angry Occupy Yourtown people are screaming that they want their student loans forgiven because education is a fundamental human right.

    As usual, we empower our well meaning government to help, and they ultimately make education less valuable and LESS affordable in the long run.

    The free market works. We should try it more often.

    Not surprisingly, the value of the free market is a lesson that’s seldom taught in government funded public schools or government subsidized universities.

  • Sharon Jones wrote on March 11, 2012 05:32 PM :

    A rule of thumb is that students should not borrow more than they could reasonably expect to earn their first year of employment. An elementary education major is treading dangerously when borrowing more than $25,000 or so, compared to a computer engineering major who could pay back much higher debt.

    Remedial education and services would be more efficiently offered by community colleges instead of four-year institutions. First-generation college students probably need more guidance than others about choosing majors, career fields, importance of internships, and consequences of debt.

    Sharon Jones, a 20-year college career counselor and author

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