GOP hostility towards student aid intensifies

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to eliminate the federal student loan program. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich believes student loans are a “Ponzi scheme,” which really doesn’t make any sense at all.

And Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain added his name to the list of GOP leaders who no longer want the federal government to help young people pay for higher education.

Speaking by satellite to a New York education forum sponsored by The College Board, a membership association of colleges that administers standardized tests like the SAT, Cain proposed local avenues to replace existing federal tuition aid structure.

“I believe that if a state wants to help with college education, that they should do that,” he said from Arkansas, where he is on a campaign swing. “Secondly, you have people living within communities within states that are willing to help fund those kinds of programs. So I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to help fund a college education because herein, our resources are limited and I believe that the best solution is the one closest to the problem. The people within the state, the people within the communities, ultimately, I believe, are the ones who have that responsibility.”

It’s not just presidential candidates. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week told voters the Pell Grant program is “unsustainable” (it’s actually sustainable with some sensible reforms, making Paul’s drive to gut the program unnecessary*) and that he was outraged that the Obama administration “confiscated the private student loan industry” (that never happened).

As a factual matter, Ryan has no idea what he’s talking about, and Cain’s idea about shifting all college aid responsibilities to states won’t work. But even putting these pesky details aside, why is it Republicans are so eager to make it harder for young people to further their education?

College tuition costs are soaring to the point of being “out of control.” Young people are entering the workforce shouldering $1 trillion in student-loan debt. Given global competition and the need for the most educated workforce the nation can muster, policymakers should be making every effort to make higher ed more accessible, not less, at costs that are more affordable, not less.

And yet, here we are, with national Republican figures cutting funding for student loans, pushing for the elimination of student grants, and in the case of some GOP presidential candidates, calling for the end of federal student assistance altogether.

Talk about losing the future….

* edited for clarity