Screwing the Poor Out of College...Just in Time For Christmas!
Budget Bill Places Onus On Students.
Dec 22, 2005; WASHINGTON - Nearly one-third of all the savings in the final budget bill comes from student aid, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.
Under the bill, college students would pay higher interest rates on loans. Many banks will receive lower subsidies. And the Education Department will work with the Internal Revenue Service to ferret out students and parents who underreport incomes on financial aid applications. The budget bill is estimated to save $39.7 billion over the next five years. Cuts in student aid account for $12.7 billion of the savings, or 32 percent.
The Bush administration worked closely with Republicans in Congress on provisions that affect student aid. But Education Secretary Margaret Spellings declined to comment until the bill cleared a final hurdle on Capitol Hill.
Republican negotiators said virtually all the cuts in student aid would be borne by banks and other lenders, an assertion sharply disputed by Democrats and college administrators, who said that two-thirds of the savings would be at the expense of students and their families.
Even as it makes those cuts, Congress is creating a new program for students from low-income families who are eligible for Pell grants. The amount of aid will not be based on financial need. To qualify, students would have to be U.S. citizens, have completed "a rigorous secondary school program of study" and be taking courses full time at a "degree-granting institution of higher education."
The student would have to maintain "a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0." Juniors and seniors will be eligible only if they have declared a major in the physical or life sciences, computer science, mathematics, technology, engineering or a foreign language deemed critical to national security.
College and university groups, as well as most Democrats, opposed the overall bill.
"This is the biggest cut in the history of the federal student loan program," said David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, an umbrella group for public and private colleges and universities.
A lobbyist at the council, Becky H. Timmons, said, "Students will be paying higher interest rates than they are currently paying."
The rate would be fixed at 6.8 percent for students and 8.5 percent for parents. The current rates, which vary with market conditions, are several percentage points below those levels.
The new aid for freshmen and sophomores is known as academic competitiveness grants. Freshmen would be eligible for $750 grants, and sophomores for $1,300 grants. Juniors and seniors would be eligible for $4,000 a year in what Congress calls SMART grants. The name is an acronym for "Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent."
The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the new support for math and science education would increase America's ability to compete in a global economy.
"China and India are generating scientists and engineers at a furious pace while America lags dangerously behind," Frist said.
The bill would not change the maximum Pell grant, which has been $4,050 for several years. President Bush had proposed a $100 increase. The bill would increase the maximum amount of subsidized loans, to $3,500 and $4,500 for first- and second-year students, from $2,625 and $3,500.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said the math and science program would abandon the Pell grant principle that the neediest students should receive the most help.
"Under this proposal," Kennedy said, "a single mother who can attend college only part time because she has to work 40 hours a week to put food on the table will not be eligible for a penny in new grant aid."
Republicans said the budget bill squeezed far more savings from banks than from students. Rep. John A. Boehner, the Ohio Republican who is chairman of the Committee on Education and the Work Force, said the bill would increase benefits for some students while saving money for taxpayers.
"Vast increases in federal student aid" have coincided with a decade of tuition increases, Boehner said.
He suggested that federal investments in higher education had contributed to "the college cost explosion that is squeezing the budgets of low- and middle-income families."
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said the Republican proposals would make it even harder for many families to pay for college. About 70 percent of the savings in student aid "come off the backs of students and their families," Miller said.
- I know many, many former and current college students...who are already looking at years and years of paying off college loans, in a bad economy. Now, this will make it worse. This isn't an incentive to go to college, guys...it's an incentive to go to trade school. At least THAT can be paid off at the normal interest rate!
- Cutting the budget to screw students. Congrats, Bush. You're now the biggest Dickhead of the Year. Live it up.
- I have an idea...why not GET OUR FUCKING TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ? That will save a HELL of a lot of money.
- Am I the only person who is seeing an agenda here? "Well, we can't meet our military quota, and the draft met with disaster during Vietnam...I know! Let's make it nearly impossible for the poor to go to college! They'll sign up in droves! Yeah! That's the ticket!"
- I want to know exactly what constitutes a "rigorous secondary education." I'm guessing Tribal schools, alternative schools and homeschoolers will be exempt. Hey, while we're screwing the poor...might as well get the Indians, the gays and the homeschoolers too, huh?
- Only subjects deemed "necessary to national security." Screw those pre-meds. Who needs doctors and teachers when we can train kids to build better bombers?
- President Bush proposed a $100 increase in Pell Grants? Well, what a generous offer, Mister Scrooge!
- I don't get these GOP types. I really don't. They'll go on and on about welfare being the root of all evil...and then they pass a bill removing any chance of the working poor to attend college and make sure they are never on public assistance? What gives?
Being in college is not an easy task. Being poor and working your way through college is not easy. But thanks to the GOP, the poor don't need to worry about THAT anymore! No college for you! But stay away from those food stamp lines!
And Merry Christmas!