October 31, 2011
By Amir Barzin
For more than 40 years, the state of Texas has been committed to helping students attend college by offering low, fixed-interest student loans. The program, known today as the College Access Loan (CAL), currently boasts one of the lowest interest rates in the nation (5.25 percent).
Unlike many other types of loans available to students, the state is able to keep interest rates purposefully low because the program answers to tuition-payers, not profit margins. Throughout its long history, the program has also never relied on taxpayers to repay bond obligations or administer the program.
The fiscally sound management principles employed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) have ensured that the benefits of low- interest and low-cost loans are passed directly to student borrowers. It is for these reasons that Texas voters have reauthorized the program in six elections since 1965.
On Nov. 8, voters will once again be asked to approve bonding authority to support this program. But this election marks a critical juncture for the future of the program and access to funding to help students pay for college.
If passed, Proposition 3 will significantly extend the reach of the program to serve more students than ever before. It will also provide long-term sustainability and predictability so that the THECB can effectively respond to current and future demand for low-interest loans. At a time when financial aid programs and family budgets alike are more strained than ever, this program has the potential to offer a low-cost alternative for students. For example, the THECB estimated last spring that a student with a $20,000 CAL loan would save $7,500 in interest payments over 20 years compared to the federal Parent Plus loan.
As a student myself, I understand the challenges of paying for college. For many of us, there are not enough affordable resources to cover the college cost gap. While the CAL program alone cannot solve this problem, it can make a real difference.
The outcome of Proposition 3 affects Texas students more than any other constituency. It is for this reason it is critical that Texas college students inform themselves about the amendment and register votes on Nov. 8. This is an opportunity for students to have a direct impact on the future vitality of one of the longest-running financial aid programs in Texas history.
This special op-ed contribution is brought to you by Amir Barzin. Amir is the student member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He is pursuing a doctor of osteopathy degree at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Twenty Texas student body presidents have signed on to support Proposition 3, including SMU Student Body President Austin Prentice. Early voting starts Monday; you can learn more at thecb.state.tx.us.
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