Student aid legislation is headline politicking. It is supposed to be leaders helping us learn.
In that game of one-upsmanship, Congress came up big when it passed the largest increase in federal student aid since 1944’s landmark G.I. Bill. People have been talking about the $22 billion increase in financial support since the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 was first written.
The bill increases the maximum Pell Grant – aid to the neediest students – by 20 percent over the next five years, from $4,300 to $5,400 per year. The fixed rate on subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduates – federally-backed student loans – would be cut in half over the next four years to 3.4 percent. Repayment options will become more lenient beginning in July 2009.
Moreover, rather than redirecting appropriations from other causes, the bill is funded by cutting nearly $21 billion in government subsidies to private lenders over the next five years. That has been an enormous selling point for some, but most private-sector loan providers are unsurprisingly predicting rising private loan costs because of it. Slashing subsidies to tuition lenders rather than increased taxes sounds great – and, really it is – but the effects can hurt some, including many at Temple.
The act does expand eligibility to more middle-income students, but many gripe that they make too much to get government funding and too little to pay on their own. There are those with more expendable income and those who could now be better served by the government, but those in the middle could find college more expensive as private-lending becomes more expensive.
This country has gone crazy with college lately. There has been a nearly 20 percent national increase in higher education appropriations since 2001, according to a report by The Chronicle of Higher Education. A fifth more funding in just six years. Shouldn’t that be startling?
If politicians won’t – or can’t – oppose something, you can expect someone has figured out how to profit from it. Look no further than tougher criminal justice and the war on drugs. Pens were saved there too.
Getting educated is never wrong, but the only people who will tell you college is the only option are those who can make a dollar on it. We’re creating a professional population without enough professions. It is a mistake to divert talented minds from technical schools and apprenticeships. A higher-education industrial complex can form. It has.