Levine is a sophomore politics major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Drake President David Maxwell recently sent out an email to all Drake students to encourage us to join an alliance that will urge Congress to continue federal aid for college students. I’m sure many of you did not even think about it; of course aid needs to be continued. So, you went online and joined the alliance happily. But does federal student aid really help us as students and as a country?
Look at the evidence and the answer should be an unequivocal “no.” Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is correct when he said federal student loans should be completely phased out, which is a far cry from President Barack Obama’s recent policy pitch of forgiving all student debt. Paul’s plan may seem heartless on the surface, but it is actually a sound policy. As college students, we might find it hard to hear, but government student assistance does not help America whatsoever. In fact, Washington’s intervention in education has done more harm than good.
When the government offers student loans to anybody and everybody, this logical result follows; anybody and everybody goes to college, which is not necessarily a good thing. By artificially boosting consumption, the government has caused massive tuition inflation. Certainly, a significant part of the reason that tuition is so high today is because the government is there to pay for it. Think if you were the head of a university, and you knew that not only was demand for your service going to increase, but also that the government was going to help students pay for your service no matter what the price was set at. What would you do? Well, you don’t have to answer that question because the universities already are. They are raising tuition.
In the free market, prices are driven down by true competition. However, when the government gets involved, this goes out the window. We need to ask ourselves real tough questions on this issue then. Why is it the case that since 1965, when the true foundation for today’s federal assistance system was laid, tuition has skyrocketed? How come that from 1982 (two years after the establishment of the Department of Education) to 2007, the cost of room and board has doubled, and the cost of tuition has risen by 439 percent?
We cannot possibly stick our heads so far in the sand and believe that this is a coincidence. The problem gets even worse, though. Federal aid for tuition is usually non-discriminatory when it comes to what major the student is pursuing, which definitely compounds the problem. To put it bluntly, a student majoring in art history should not be given federal aid because the evidence shows that they probably won’t be able to pay it back. Simply put, as the government has taken on a more active role in subsidizing higher education, the price has risen dramatically, which makes it more difficult for students to pay off their debt since they have to take on more.
This debt problem is real; student debt recently surpassed credit card debt in the U.S. by reaching over $1 trillion. Since 1999, student debt has risen by 511 percent. Why does Drake’s administration and many in Washington scare students into believing that more government spending is the solution? What Maxwell is pushing for is just flat-out wrong. I have the utmost respect for him as the university’s president, and I think he handles relationships with students wonderfully, but in this case I have to disagree with his call to action. It may be hard to swallow, but government student assistance is nothing of the sort. I am urging students to rethink their support of the alliance that Drake is asking us to join.