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Debra J. Saunders
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How To Build a Tuition Trap

Comment

This week, President Barack Obama has been warning students that without his intervention, interest rates for a federal student loan program will double to 6.8 percent July 1.

In the process, he's been misquoting a Republican congresswoman. On Tuesday, he told students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that she has "very little tolerance for people who (say) they graduate with debt, because there's no reason for that."

And: "She said students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts, having opportunity 'dumped in your lap.'"

The audience booed.

The congresswoman in question is Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., a grandmother first elected to the House in 2004, when she was 61. The chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training and a former president of a community college, she is proud that she worked her way through college without borrowing a dime. It took her seven years. And here is what Foxx actually said on G. Gordon Liddy's talk show earlier this month:

"I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt — or even $80,000 of debt — because there's no reason for that. We live in an opportunity society, and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says 'Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.' You don't sit on your butt and have it dumped in your lap."

In other words, Foxx didn't say there was no reason for the average student loan burden of $25,000; she was saying that borrowing is a choice and that young people shouldn't take out huge student loans that they cannot repay.

I should think the president agrees, as his administration is working on a "Know Before You Owe" program to educate teens and parents about student loan debt.

The president told students that Congress lowered Stafford loan interest rates with the support of 77 House Republicans.

(Politico has reported that then-Sen. Obama missed two votes on the 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which he now wants to extend, and he was not a co-sponsor.)

This year, Republicans balked at the $6 billion price tag. Democratic and GOP leaders now are haggling over how to pay for the subsidy — with tax increases or spending cuts.

On Monday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney plunked himself in the easy middle on this issue. He supported extending the 3.4 percent rate while exhorting Washington not to fund the subsidy with tax increases.

Passage appears inevitable. Interest rates are low, and college tuition has skyrocketed in recent decades; with Washington spending $3.8 trillion this year, who wants to lose votes over a (comparatively) lousy $6 billion?

Neal McCluskey of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute sees a missed opportunity for the GOP to make the case to voters that easy loans entice students to take out bigger loans. "They're not making colleges more affordable," said McCluskey, "because colleges are happy to raise their prices to take that money."

There's a rift in America between voters who believe that Washington aid has driven up tuition and Americans who believe that high tuition demands more aid from Washington. It's a tuition trap that keeps luring more Americans because the middle way is to do both.

Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com. To find out more about Debra J. Saunders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM



Comments

5 Comments | Post Comment
Cato dude is exacly right. When Obama goes around to these colleges and says he wants to make college more affordable, he's lying. What he means is that he wants to make government subsidised loans more accessible, despite the fact that they caused tuition to skyrocket in the first place.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:28 AM
Knowledge is the wealth of a nation, and that nation that is denied the knowledge it has worked for and paid for so that it can be reserved for the rich are inviting poverty into their homes and cities, and it is demanding that others with knowledge defeat and enslave them... It takes more than a relative few in society to keep a culture alive... We cannot let the religious and the right make a fetish out of ignorance, and make a vice out of education...If they wish to be guided by magic let them stay out of the affairs of the nation and pray... All others should demand the education we have all paid for already at the expense of learning it...Those who would make a commodity of it simply because it is a thing of great value need themselves to be educated... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Apr 26, 2012 1:59 PM
Re: Chris McCoy;... I get your argument, that the availability of money does raise the price; because this certainly happened in real estate, and no conservative/reactionary cried about that... First, income was taxed, and then it was pushed down onto every level of worker who could not afford it... This left property relatively free of taxation which meant it could be held for no better reason than speculation, and the price rose... Then the workers finding they had to work that much harder to pay taxes and make their living also found themselves short of cash...

No problem, because you can have credit for the balance of your life... But problem, because the money not paid to workers was everywhere is short supply, so the price of tying it up with risk rose... No problem says the government because we will guarantee your loan and make your interest tax deductable, and so deny ourselves revenue to insure profit for the rich, and help elevate property values...

They, meaning the government were totally behind the driving down of wages from the moment every man having to make his way had to do the work of another half man with his own... And rather than making the commonwealth of property pay for government they took it out of workers already carrying the whole country with their labor... It put one of the most essential elements of life: shelter, out of reach for many people, and it blew a property bubble from shore to shore...

What has it gained this people???We say we have lost value, but the value was never there to begin with... Only by controlling the supply was it possible to drive up the price; but anyone feeding on the population, with speculation and market manipulation in that fashion should be taxed into poverty instead of supported into wealth..Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:41 AM
Holy crap, Sweeny we agree on something. Maybe as time goes on we will find more common ground.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:01 AM
Re: Chris McCoy;... Cool; and maybe... Sweeney
Comment: #5
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:32 PM
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