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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Student loan lottery plan is not a winner

Updated: July 16,2015 at 10:40 a.m.

Irene Ly, a sophomore studying psychology, is a Hatchet opinions writer. 

John Burzichelli, a Democrat assemblyman from New Jersey, proposed legislation last week that would establish a lottery for people burdened by college debt.

The lucky winner of the proposed lottery would have the funds go directly to the institution where the money is owed. For just the price of a $3 ticket, it seems like a great deal for students from New Jersey, who make up a significant part of GW’s student body.

As the cost of college is a flash point nationwide, proposing this lottery make sense, and it’s encouraging to see legislators interested in helping people pay off their student loans. But time and effort would be better spent on a long-term solution to help more people – not just one lucky winner.

In his plan, Burzichelli states that a second or third winning ticket would be drawn if there are enough funds available to cover more than one person. However, the lottery would be run by an outside vendor that would receive roughly 25 percent of the pot. If the winner had the national average student debt load of $28,400, then the lottery would need to bring in $35,000 in revenue to fully cover just one person.

And as a point of comparison, the average debt load of GW graduates was more than $30,000 in 2013, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

Because college is so expensive, many students may see any effort to help with debt as a good idea. But unfortunately, this is much more of a jackpot for the outside vendor running the lottery than the debt-ridden ticket buyers, since only two or three will get lucky.

After President Barack Obama proposed in January the idea of free community college, free or debt-free college has become a key campaign plank for the Democratic party. Last week former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley unveiled a plan for debt-free college, and revealed he and his wife are shouldering a $339,000 student debt load for their daughters. Sen. Bernard Sanders, D-Vt., has also laid out a plan for free college at four-year schools. Republican lawmakers have so far been unwilling to back similar plans, which could cost as much as $90 billion.

With the 2016 presidential election just around the corner, this issue will come up again and again, and hopefully we’ll find an attainable solution that is both bigger and better.

Is Burzichelli’s proposal a small step in the right direction? Definitely. But a lottery is most certainly not the solution we’ve all been waiting for.

This post was updated to reflect the following clarification:
John Burzichelli is a representative in the New Jersey state assembly.

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