Posts Tagged ‘students’
Today the Republicans in the Senate blocked passage of a bill to prevent the doubling of the interest rate on Stafford Student Loans. Here is a brief excerpt from today’s NY Times on the topic:
Republicans said they wanted to extend Democratic legislation passed in 2007 that temporarily reduced interest rates for the low-or middle-income undergraduates who receive subsidized Stafford loans to 3.4 percent from 6.8 percent.
But they oppose the Senate Democrats’ proposal to pay for a one-year extension by changing tax law that currently allows some wealthy taxpayers to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes by classifying their pay as dividends, not cash income.
And why do they oppose the proposal? Because closing these loopholes will raise taxes on people who allegedly create jobs. In other words, by closing these loopholes in Social Security and Medicare we will slow the recovery. I kid you not. This is actually the Republican position.
“They want to raise taxes on people who are creating jobs when we are still recovering from the greatest recession since the Great Depression,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, who instead wanted to pay for it by eliminating a preventive health care fund in President Obama’s health care law.
This is such palpable nonsense it is hard to believe that anyone can say it with a straight face. Right, closing loopholes for wealthy folks on Social Security and Medicare is going to slow down the engine of economic growth.
I realize that I am venting here but it seems to me that the Republicans on taxes have either become ideological fanatics, who simply can’t see that the evidence is not on their side. Or they are absolutely committed to protecting the wealth of their donor base at all costs to the country. Or perhaps undermining Obama’s health care initiative is such a priority they will give any excuse. Or all of the above.
In any case, this points to an even more serious problem. Extreme differences in income are seriously problematic on numerous levels for democratic societies. The indebtedness of students is one piece of the puzzle of the ever increasing inequality bubble in America. We can go on like this for several more years, I suppose. Perhaps decades. But this is no way to ensure the flourishing of this society over the long term. Our children, and our children’s children, will pay for this fanatical pursuit of a form of “free” market capitalism that is simply out of date in the twenty-first century.
America, land of opportunity, where hard work and merit determines who gets ahead. A nation where a good education, the gateway to success, is available to all.
Not so fast, I’m afraid. America is actually losing ground in providing access to college. And disparities in income are responsible. How bad is the situation? It seems that, “bright and focused kids from poor families are going to college at the same rate as unfocused or low-scoring kids from families much better off.” This quotation is from a recent piece by Andrew Delbanco, “The Universities in Trouble,” in The New York Review of Books. It’s worth a read. Here is an excerpt.
But the public–private partnership that did much to democratize American higher education has been coming apart. In 1976, federal Pell grants for low-income students covered 72 percent of the average cost of attending a four-year state institution; by 2003, Pell grants covered only 38 percent of the cost. Meanwhile, financial aid administered by the states is being allocated more and more on the basis of “merit” rather than need—meaning that scholarships are going increasingly to high-achieving students from high-income families, leaving deserving students from low-income families without the means to pay for college.
In 2002, a federal advisory committee issued a report, aptly entitled “Empty Promises,” which estimated that “more than 400,000 students nationally from families with incomes below $50,000″ met the standards of college admission “and yet were unable to enroll in a four-year college because of financial barriers. More than 160,000 of these students did not attend any college because of these barriers, not even a two-year institution.” Two years later one leading authority pointed out that “the college-going rates of the highest-socioeconomic-status students with the lowest achievement levels is the same level as the poorest students with the highest achievement levels.” In short, bright and focused kids from poor families are going to college at the same rate as unfocused or low-scoring kids from families much better off.
1. Donald E. Heller quoted in Paul Attewell and Davd E. Lavin, Does Higher Education for the Disadvantaged Pay Off Across the Generations? (Russell Sage Foundation, 2007), p. 199; Donald E. Heller, “A Bold Proposal: Increasing College Access Without Spending More Money,” Crosstalk, Fall 2004; and Brian K. Fitzgerald and Jennifer A. Delaney, “Educational Opportunity in America,” Condition of Access: Higher Education for Lower Income Students, edited by Donald E. Heller (ACE/Praeger, 2002).