Education costs rising out of range Updated: Friday, May 30, 2014 KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It's the time of year for pomp and circumstance and graduation parties, as young American men and women make the transition from high school to the rest of their lives.Never before has the cultivation of young minds been more important for the future of our country.Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says if we expect to compete well in the growing arena of global competition, we should be making it easier for young people to continue their education, not harder.=====================We've all heard the numbers. And they're sobering.In math, our kids rank 36th. In science, 28th. And in reading, 24th.And its not so much that our scores are getting worse--theirs are getting better.We're stagnating.A generation ago the United States had the highest number of college graduates in the world.Today we rank ninth--behind such countries as South Korea, Japan, China, Canada, and India.This, at a time when how we compete in a global economy is going to be dictating our future. Whether we wish to burden our young people with this or not, the fact is, they are our warriors in an increasingly competitive battle for survival. It's a war that will never end.No longer is it whether the son or daughter is being groomed to take over the family grocery store. The day of the mom and pop enterprise is largely over. The game is now being played on a world stage. And how are we helping?We urge them to borrow large sums of money from the government--with interest rates of roughly 4 to 7 percent--to be paid back after they graduate from college.With a smile, a signature, a handshake and a few words of encouragement, we award them a diploma and place them in a ten to twenty year financial bind.Instead of saddling these young men and women with interest-laden debt, why not make it as appealing as buying a new car: "no money down and zero-percent financing." If auto companies can afford to do it to increase sales, we ought to be able to do it to increase our competitive edge.Not to suggest free education. Just to suggest we drop the burden of interest. Why in the world should a student graduate with a debt of $50,000 and have to pay $80 or $90-thousand over the next 20 years to get out from under it? How about "pay back what you borrow."To be sure, the government likes things the way they are. Our federal government takes in as much as $65 billion a year on interest from loans made to college students. Isn't that special?Here's a snapshot of where we stand: more and more young adults want to further their educations. Applications are up at colleges and universities all across the state.The trouble is, tuition rates over the past thirty years have risen three times faster than median family incomes.A new ACT study says the average family income for high school seniors has actually declined 12 percent over the past eight years.People have less and less to pay more and more.Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren says graduates are so strangled by student debt that for many it's nearly impossible to buy houses or cars or take part in our economy in any substantial way.And the exact opposite is what we need.Just as in the world of healthcare, we have to find a way to get control of the cost. There is no sane reason that healthcare and education should continuously outpace inflation.And there is no sane reason we shouldn't be affordably equipping our young people with everything they need to compete head-to-head in an increasingly competitive world.It's a cost we'd benefit from greatly.And our future depends on it.In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.