Congress needs to cut funding for student loans entirely

Adam Milasincic

The congressional budget wizards who conjured up $12 billion in student loan cuts last week made one mistake: They didn’t go far enough.

Federal funding for student loans should be eliminated entirely – and that’s the real “pro-education” position.

Government hand-outs come with strings. They muck up the market and boost bottom lines for consumers.

Congressional meddling in higher education has not, as promised, given birth to a generation of world-class scholars. Instead, it has created a generation of students riddled by debt incurred in borrowing money from themselves.

Congress could, and should, exempt full-time students from paying federal income and Social Security taxes. That would be a straight-forward way to ease the tuition burden. Instead, students must send their money to the imperial capital and then muddle through loan applications to determine if they are worthy for “assistance.”

The lucky ones temporarily get some of their tax dollars back, minus the untold millions skimmed off the top to fund a multilayer loan bureaucracy. After college, these students send their money back to Uncle Sam, who asks for nothing beyond a grateful smile and a 6.8 percent interest rate to reward his benevolence.

Of course, this system is far superior to the alternative option of privately-funded loans. That could actually encourage colleges to spend tuition money wisely.

With a guaranteed stream of federal moolah, universities are free to hike tuition year after year with impunity. If college costs had simply increased at the inflation rate since 1982, the average tuition in 2002 would have been $3,536 versus the actual $7,828.

Instead of fiddling with outdated notions like “budgets” and “cost efficiency,” however, administrators can simply call their congressman to weep over the plight of oppressed scholars-in-waiting who are denied their birthright to a tax-funded education.

College is a right, after all. It comes after “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Realizing this, the federal government long ago settled on a mission of dragging as many half-wits, bunglers and stooges as possible into the nation’s colleges – whether they wanted to go or not.

Thanks to this policy, college is now mandatory for any job seeker who aspires to a position beyond “homeless window washer.”

At least that’s how it was until last week, when the House of Representatives approved a package of student loan cuts that will apparently bring higher education to its knees.

The amount of federal aid available will actually increase, but students face the horror of a new interest payment fixed at 6.8 percent (which is somehow worse than the current variable rate with an 8.5 percent ceiling).

Some of the “cuts” aren’t even cuts. Part of the savings will be transferred to a new grant program for students of math, science and foreign languages. Welcome to Wealth Redistribution 101.

If the feds are sincere about increasing access to higher education – rather than simply increasing their own power – they can do students a real favor: Let students, and all taxpayers, keep what they earn and spend it as they see fit. Someone fought a revolution over that idea once.

Adam Milasincic is a senior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].