The reverberations of our crisis-driven economy continue to sound the death knell for many of our young students who attempt to further their education beyond high school. Parents are struggling with daily job prospects, depleted saving funds, suffocating mortgage payments (if in fact they can save a mortgage) and with keeping peace of mind and a “stiff upper lip” in a troubling society. They also had to disappoint a child with college on their mind with the reality that money allocated for continued education has evaporated and more loans are out of the question.

The current number one reason that young adults are dropping out of college is an inability to balance time between school and work – in other words, it’s the kids who do not come from the financially stable and better off families in which financial assistance is part of the equation. These motivated but helpless students have to prioritize paying rent (they can’t afford tuition), buying groceries and, in some cases, supporting a family over meeting a college class schedule. A recent survey by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that 58 percent of those having to drop out were receiving no financial help from parents or family.

Our country is already suffering from an ominous post secondary education attrition rate for other reasons that we continue to ignore. Each fall about 2.8 million students enroll in some form of higher education. Fewer than 50 percent are graduating within six years and only 20 percent earn a degree within three years from community colleges. Add this to the national high schools dropout rate and perhaps you can agree with the choice of “ominous” as the word of the week to depict the unsettled landscape for future generations.

There are two areas that demand attention which will help ease the burden of costs for some of these want-to-be students. But, unfortunately, they can’t command the attention that lobbyists, corporate giants or financial predators can of our wayward legislators. After all, they are only kids!

In the health insurance debate, our Commonwealth could assist college students who are not covered by parents’ or spouses’ health insurance plans – approximately 100,000 students. These young people have to usually purchase plans through private, for profit companies sold on college campuses. (Students are not allowed to get coverage under the state’s subsidized Commonwealth Care.) The “predators” in this insurance field are profiting significantly on these policies.

A recent report in the Boston Globe compiled by the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy indicated, “that 30 cents of every premium dollar for the student insurance goes toward profit and administration costs” (as opposed to 12 cents on policies of the general public). Many of these policies do not provide “minimum credible coverage”.

Can’t the state include plans for students under the Connector Authority as it does for others? Can’t the colleges manage the solicitation and campus sale of policies according to client oriented sensitivity?

Industry financial giants have long profited from government subsidies to originate and administer government backed student loans – the profits are huge without risk to the likes of Sallie May and its competitors. The House of Representatives in our Congress passed the President’s plan to overhaul the process and eliminate the subsidies saving $80 billion over the next ten years. As the Senate considers the bill, the financial profiteers are screaming, “government takeover” of the loan industry. Excuse me! It’s not a takeover if something is essentially yours in cost and risk to begin with. The private companies would still service but not originate the loans as we understand it, without subsidy.