Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin and one of the most influential conservative politicians, doesn’t think America can afford Pell Grants, the federal program that provides money to help low-income students attend college.

According to a piece by Travis Waldron and Pat Garofalo at Think Progress:

During a town hall today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked by Matthew Lowe, a student, why the GOP wants to cut Pell Grants. Ryan responded by saying that the program is “unsustainable,” before telling Lowe that he should be working three jobs and taking out student loans to pay for college, instead of using Pell Grants:

LOWE: I come from a middle-class family and under President Obama, I get $5,500 per year to pay for school, which doesn’t come close to covering all of the funding, but it helps ease the burden. Under your plan, you cut it by 15 percent. I was just curious why you would cut a grant that goes directly to the middle- and lower-class people that need it the most.

RYAN: ‘Cause Pell Grants have become unsustainable. It’s all borrowed money…Look, I worked three jobs to pay off my student loans after college. I didn’t get grants, I got loans, and we need to have a system of viable student loans to be able to do this.

It’s true that Ryan worked several jobs when he was younger. He was apparently a waiter at Tortilla Coast and a fitness trainer at Washington Sport and Health Club while also working on the staff of Sen. Bob Kasten early in his career. This drive and initiative is commendable.

Here’s Ryan (the congressman begins talking about his student loans at :59):

That being said, Ryan also managed to substantially reduce the amount of student loans he had to take out because he had the advantage of receiving Social Security benefits from the federal government for several years before he started college.

According to an article by Bobbie Kyle Sauer at USA Today, “Ryan’s father died when Paul was only 16. Using the Social Security survivors benefits he received until his 18th birthday, he paid for his education at Miami University in Ohio.”

This is not a financial tactic available to all Americans.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer