Editorial roundup – July 13

Student debt crisis must be overcome

(Bloomington) Herald-Times

Representatives of more than 200 colleges and universities from across the country recently gathered at Indiana University for the second annual National Summit on Collegiate Financial Wellness.

Their job: to figure out ways to get across to students at their schools how to best deal with personal finance and pay for their degrees.

The task is enormous. Student loans for higher education today top $1.2 trillion, owed by more than 40 million borrowers who carry an average post-degree debt of $29,000.

The summit concentrated on specifics — how to encourage early savings (as early as kindergarten); how to get students to understand their choices; how to make clear that loans that don’t pay for credit hours and books but instead go to spring break expenses and fun are not good loans to take out.

This effort is laudable, of course, and whether they recognize it or not at the moment, students who go in with their eyes open and can ask the right questions will more fully appreciate such knowledge a few years into their careers, when it’s time to start a family and buy a house.

What must happen, though, is an open approach to solutions to the higher education problem and a willingness to consider even the most preposterous of ideas to find one that will work.

New sentencing guidelines deserve support

South Bend Tribune

The Indiana General Assembly was right to adopt a law directing judges, with few exceptions, to sentence nonviolent offenders to county jail, work release or home detention because the current system hasn’t been working.

Under the new law, those convicted of crimes such as residential entry, resisting law enforcement, intimidation and drug offenses such as possession of methamphetamine will be serving out their sentences locally. The decades-long policy of sending those offenders to prison has been ineffective in reducing recidivism rates.

Locking up low-level offenders in county jails, or sentencing them to home detention or work release, allows them to keep those important family and community connections. It also allows them to get help locally for mental health or drug abuse issues that may have led to their incarceration. The law does allow judges an exception to sentence low-level violent offenders to prison.

There is a cost. State legislators voted to change the law, so the state should be responsible for providing communities the funding to carry out the changes.

The law is a good idea and should be given time to work.

Red ink as far as the eye can see

Orange County (Calif.) Register

“The long-term outlook for the federal budget has worsened dramatically over the past several years, in the wake of the 2007-2009 recession and slow recovery.”

So begins the ominous warning from the Congressional Budget Office in its latest Long-Term Budget Outlook analysis for 2015.

The office projects that the federal debt held by the public will exceed 100 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product by 2039 — up from 74 percent today (already nearly twice the 38 percent average for the last 50 years) — and hit 103 percent in 2040. That is slightly better than last year’s projection of 106 percent by 2039, though not because of any fiscally responsible policies adopted by Congress.

Rather, the projection improved simply because the office reduced its interest rate assumptions a tad. The average real interest rate assumption fell from 2.2 percent last year to 2.0 percent this year.

The numbers have gotten so astronomical that it is difficult to even wrap one’s mind around the extent of it, such vast borrowing has substantial effects. Debt does matter, and the sooner we start to get a handle on it, the brighter the economic future will be for us and our posterity.

Deportation issue requires common sense

Los Angeles Times

In the contentious debate over immigration reform, there is one point on which most Americans agree: Individuals with serious criminal records should be deported. Yet in deference to local and state laws limiting police cooperation in immigration cases, some law enforcement agencies have in effect stopped communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even in common-sense situations.

Earlier this year, San Francisco officials ignored a request from the agency to hold or at least notify the agency before releasing Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who had seven previous felony convictions and had been deported five times. Instead, they let him go in April, and earlier this month he was charged in the fatal shooting of a woman strolling along the Embarcadero.

Federal officials have to show law enforcement agencies that they are truly targeting high-priority offenders for deportation and that they are responsive to the concerns of those who must maintain community trust. But local authorities also should be willing to cooperate.