Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Sweden offers lesson in higher education funding

President Biden is absolutely correct in starting the process to reform the American higher education system. Simply forgiving loans and making higher education “free” is fraught with fundamental issues and will only lead to financial disaster unless tuition reform becomes part of a bigger plan hopefully based perhaps on the extremely successful Swedish model. Despite what American politicians claim, Swedes know better than knowing their education is free and time at university is serious business.
In Sweden, as is the case with healthcare, tuition is deferred just as it is in America for primary education. The major difference is that students who choose higher education continue to defer their tuition payments until they are tax-paying adults who in turn support younger students. A smaller difference is the forfeiture of autonomy and significant choice in curriculum. The goal of education is to efficiently produce a spectrum of students to be productive and support the society via taxes.
In Sweden the biggest test one will ever take is an aptitude test in middle school. This determines the line of education the student will follow for the rest of their education with very few exceptions. Curriculum is predetermined and standardized testing is the metric of success.
“Underwater basket weaving” and “Art of the Selfie” simply do not exist in any list of academic choices. Swedish graduates emerge from education in a very predictable and standardized fashion at the ready to enter society. They are accustomed to repaying their debt to society for their education in the form of taxes during their productive years of life.
Simply negating debt will put a massive burden on the students who may benefit now but will have to somehow figure how to pay back the enormous debt transfer they will have to pay back later. The federal student loan program is a massive source of revenue for the government that will have to be made up for elsewhere to meet the bottom line at some point.
Biden is on the right track but as we all hopefully learned as young children that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. Debt forgiveness and “free” tuition make for great campaign promises but in any realistic reality are part of a bigger picture.
Anders Holm
Portsmouth, N.H.

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