Monday, September 10, 2007

Student Aid Getting a Congressional Overhaul!

This is yet again proof that the change in the congressional body was for the good. Going virtually unnoticed by anyone, the student aid programs under went a total overhaul by Congress.

From New York Times by DIANA JEAN SCHEMO:
"Congress Passes Overhaul of Student Aid Programs" —

The final bill, hammered out this week in a House-Senate conference committee, alters many of the ground rules for financing higher education, offering forgiveness on student loans to graduates who work for 10 years or more in public service professions like teaching, firefighting and the police, and limiting monthly payments on federally backed loans to 15 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income.
Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the House education committee, said that last year, Republicans took nearly $12 billion from federal student aid programs. “We took $11.39 billion and put it back into Pell grants,” Mr. Miller said. “That’s the difference that an election makes.”

For American students, this will make a great difference in the decision on whether to attend college. Which, by the way, was becoming something that only the ultra-rich could afford to do. So many of my fellow classmates -- as well as myself -- left school in incredible debt. Debt alters the choices that you can make with your life. Maybe you want to teach in an underprivileged school, or work for a non-profit which doesn't pay well but does good work for a community, you can't do that if you are walking around with $50,000 to $75,000 debt for just your undergraduate studies.

Tuition rates went through the roof because of the way the student aid programs were organized. Since the banks and other federally-backed loan programs were getting guarantees, the schools could increase tuitions knowing that loans would be there to make up the difference. This left students with huge loan debts and no one seemed to care because even if a student defaulted, the school and the banks were guaranteed to get their money. All of this was happening while the federal government was cutting back on other types of aid, such as Pell grants and work-study grants. This was a win-win situation for the banks and the schools. The only people who really got hurt were the students and their families. Very cruel. To make things worse schools were pointing students to loans for companies that were giving them kick-backs. That's called corruption.

This also accounts for why so many young people are not out there protesting. They are too busy sweating out their loan repayments. Forced into corporate jobs that will pay them barely enough to pay back their debt while they absorb the corporate culture. A culture that reinforces a sense of compliance to a non-democratic corporate hierarchy.

I'm not sure if all of this was intentional (picture me smiling cynically). But the desire to make sure that there never is again a youth culture that is questioning of authority was high on the agenda of Reagan-ites and the like. The student loan situation provided two things: a silent, compliant generation of young people and a whole lot of money to banks and other corporations. But I don't see conspiracies everywhere, just where they are obvious.

Kudos to the new Democratically lead Congress!


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