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Earl Hadley (Tom Paine): Putting Students Last

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Jack Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-27-05 07:28 PM
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Earl Hadley (Tom Paine): Putting Students Last

Dated Wednesday July 27

Putting Students Last
By Earl Hadley

News Alert: Republicans put corporate interests before students. All right, maybe this isnt newsperhaps more of a mantrabut thanks to House Republicans, students are again getting the short end of the stick. Last week, the House Education Committee passed a new version of the Higher Education Act, which sets the rules for college financial aid. The committee also passed up an opportunity to give students struggling to pay for college a helping hand.

The GOP will claim that there are a number of good things in the bill, like raising the amount students can take out in loans. Theyll also point out that they are agreeing (finally) with Democrats and allowing students to continue to fix the interest rate on their loans at a low rate for the life of the loan, rather than forcing them to accept a fluctuating rate. Improving access to loans is a positive move. It might keep some students in college, or reduce the number of hours they have to work while in school.

But, ultimately, focusing on increasing the amount students can borrow misses the point. American families and students need the federal government to take a leadership role in making college affordable for every qualified student. This means much more than adding a few boulders (in the form of additional loans) to the mountains of debt many students find themselves shouldering upon graduating. Meaningful leadership demands increasing financial aid for students, and if that requires upsetting corporate powers, then so be it.

Instead of leadership, the majority of Republicans on the House Education Committee this past week demonstrated only cowardice. On a party line vote, they killed an amendment that would have taken billions in subsidies from student loan companies and given it directly to students, and instead they chose to use those dollars to reduce the budget deficit. Not surprisingly, the only way Republicans convinced student loan corporations to accept a cut in their subsidies was through increasing the fee students pay when they try to fix the interest rates on their loans. Republicans also set the maximum interest rate students can pay at 8.25 percent, rather than the lower rate of 6.8 percent that was scheduled to go into effect next year.

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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-27-05 07:48 PM
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1. I think there's another side to this debate that needs to be addressed...
...and that's direct public funding of higher education. Even traditional student aid leaves the burden of payment on the poor, and gives INDIVIDUALS a means of overcoming that hurdle. Student loans simply leave the poor indebted to the banks or the government after graduation-- I speak from some experience, because I pay nearly $1000 per month in student loan payments.

The real issue is the proportion of the cost of higher education that is passed to students, IMO-- and that includes the cost of living during your student years. In my case, the $75K that I owed when I graduated represented about $8,000 per year, and was about half of what I had to live on for each of the 10 years or so it took me to complete college and get my Ph. D.

I think taxpayers should pay more of the cost of public education than they presently do, and I say that as a taxpayer who would GLADLY earmark a larger proportion of my taxes to subsidizing education instead of committing war crimes around the world, but I think the money should be used to LOWER the cost to students, and to pay graduate students making progress toward their degrees a stipend, rather than funneled through payments to individual students.

Society benefits TREMENDOUSLY from higher education. Every dime spent on education subsidies pays HUGE social dividends. There is no better investment that legislators can make with taxpayer's money than fully funding education so that it is accessible to EVERYONE who is capable of taking advantage of the opportunity. Our current approach is utterly wrong in the sense that it focuses on egalitarianism as "everyone's right to succeed once they're enrolled" rather than on high academic standards, but an egalitarian approach to basic educational access. The opportunity to prove one's self should cost NOTHING, or at least nothing monetary. Our current approach uses an economic filter first, and a performance filter only secondarily, and without much enthusiasm in many instances. And by the way, I speak from some experience in that regard, too-- I'm a professional educator.
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