Understanding the nature of education aid

From time to time, I find it enjoyable to poke fun at congressional Republicans and their, shall we say, limited understanding of the world around them.

But this quote, delivered on the House floor this week by Rep. Rob Woodall (R) of Georgia, is one of my new favorites of the entire year. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) had just finished saying that students who get degrees invariably improve their income levels. Woodall didn’t care for the observation.

“My colleague who was here right before me said the value of higher education, in terms of future earnings, is undisputable [sic]. The value of higher education, Mr. Speaker, in terms of future earnings is undisputable. And then went on to talk about all the federal programs that provide money so that people can seek higher education. Now my question is, Mr. Speaker, if the value is undisputable why do we have to pay people to do it? If the value is undisputable, why do we have to pay people to do it?” [emphasis added]

So, in Rep. Woodall’s mind, college students don’t necessarily want to get their degrees, but policymakers coerce them to pursue higher education by paying them to attend classes.

He didn’t appear to be kidding.

If Republicans want to argue that we should cut student aid because of a philosophical objection to federal action in education, fine. They’re wrong, but there’s at least an ideological foundation for the argument. If GOP officials also want to argue we should make it harder for America’s youth to get degrees based on some kind of class-based tough-love approach — if you’re poor, you should worker harder than the wealthy to get ahead — that’s offensive, but I at least understand the point.

But to argue that we “have to pay people” to go to college, as if the aid is forcing students to go, is just bizarre, even by the standards of congressional Republicans.