What's the solution to the student-debt problem?

We’ve received some pointed responses to MPR’s Question of the Day, which is:

One of the issues motivating the Occupy Wall Street movement is student-loan debt, which now equals the size of credit card debt in the United States. The average debt is $24,000, but many graduates carry a balance much larger than that.

Today’s Question: What’s the solution to the student-debt problem?

Many readers rail about banks, the government and university bloat.

Some get more specific.

Emery writes in:

Better management would allow American universities to do more with less

First, separate the funding of teaching and research. Research is a public good, but there is no reason why undergraduates should pay for it.

Second, increase the student-teacher ratio. Business and law schools achieve good results with big classes. Why not other colleges?

Third, puncture administrative bloat. The cost of administration per student soared by 61% in real terms between 1993 and 2007. Private research universities spend $7,000 a year per student on “administrative support”: not only deans and department heads but also psychologists, counselors, human-resources implementation managers and so on.

Chris writes:

The solution for me and other professionals would be to simply allow a refinance. The motive to or possibility of default would drop and a drop in interest rates to 4% would free up around $400/mo for me. I’m sure I’d spend some and that would go a long way to helping the country recovery financially.

And Chuck writes:

The solution is reduce the cost of higher education and make tie course completion and graduation to any form of partial cost reimbursement.

As a former department head at a large urban public teaching college, I saw, first hand many of the things that colleges, public and private, waste money on. 1) teacher’s load – usually 9 semester hours per semester (3 -3 hour classes spring and fall semesters). Professors fought to arrange their teaching schedules so that they taught on Wednesdays and Thursdays only if at all possible (senority based). Teaching release time – professors were released from teaching time to pursue other activies – sometimes as high as 50%. Some professors had no teaching assignments at all.

2) Classes with next to no enrollment (5-6 students) were taught time and time again.

3) Huge investments in varous redundant and unneccessay technolgies and facilities.

4) Duplicative programmes with other nearby and accessible colleges and universities.

5. Unnessarily large and, by and large, well paid, administrative staffs. We had an Academic Affairs officer reassigned to no job at $165,000.00 a year.

Take a good look at the MNSCU system and you will see much of this repeated here in MN. How many public colleges just in Anoka county?

You can chime in here.