Outstanding student loan debt is projected this year to hit $1 trillion for the first time, while the average college student now graduates with more than $25,000 in debt. Federal student aid has failed to keep pace with the skyrocketing cost of tuition, even as the U.S.’s educational attainment begins to trail that of other developed nations.
According to the Lumina Foundation, by 2025, the U.S. will be short 16 million college educated workers. But according to the GOP presidential candidates, who took part in yet another primary debate last night, the government should deal with these problems by doing away with federal student loans:
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX): The policy of student loans is a total failure. I mean, a trillion dollars of debt, and it’s going to be dumped on the taxpayer?…There’s nothing more dramatically failing than that program…We should get rid of the loan programs.
NEWT GINGRICH: It’s an absurdity. What does it do? It expands the ability of students to stay in college longer because they don’t see the cost.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX): I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of paying for programs and building up huge debt out there.
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As ThinkProgress’ Zaid Jilani has explained, “millions of Americans have benefited from the ability to go to school thanks to the federal student lending programs first pioneered in the 1960′s and 1970′s. According to data from the Department of Education, 9,020,465 Americans utilized the federally subsidized student loan program during the last academic year.” Blaming federal aid for rising tuition is a favorite conservative canard, with little basis in reality.
As for the problem of student loan debt, the Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal has some good ideas here, including mass refinancing of all student loans “into the current low rates the financial sector enjoys.” Instead of embracing something along those lines — and helping students gain an education that for more and more people is becoming a heavier and heavier burden — the GOP wants to throw the student loan program out altogether and leave students to the mercy of the banks.