Thursday, February 16, 2006

Raising College Loan Costs: It's more than a bad policy

Truth in advertising must come first. I am in the education business. But in the sometimes murky, contentious business of social economic research, surely one relationship stands as fact. Expenditures on education benefit society and expenditures on educating those who cannot afford an education benefit society most of all. Rather than marshalling statistics, which I could most certainly do, I rather wish to point to two uniquely American success stories: the Land Grant Colleges and the GI Bill of Rights.

The Land Grant College Program, established by the Morill Act provided the foundation for the USA’s system of state universities. It underwrote an ethic of community-service oriented university education that was unique in the world and remains so today. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have received educations from these institutions, changing their lives and American society. The GI bill made it possible for thousands of veterans, returning home after World War II, to receive and education, transforming their lives and fueling the post World War economic expansion that established American Economic preeminence.

Recently it was announced that as part of the ‘deficit reduction act’ student loan charges would increase from about 4.5 per-cent to more than 7 per-cent. This is yet another facet of declining educational opportunities for those least able to pay, that begins with substandard public schools in our cities and continues through a system of university education that disproportionately favors those with high income levels.

More truth in advertising: I have been a beneficiary of the commitment to good education for all that is being destroyed by today’s misplaced priorities. My undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College was largely funded by the Holloway Plan, which financed the education of prospective US Navy career officers. My graduate education at a great Land Grant College, the University of Minnesota, was largely funded by the National Defense Education Act. (Am I an educational product of the military industrial complex?)

I know I will see the impact of rising loan costs on some of the young women and men with whom my life is deeply intermingled: the residents of AU’s Anderson Hall.

Raising college loan costs in the name of deficit reduction is not only bad policy, it is un American


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