As the Republican Congress gets ready to cut student aid and to turn the federal student loan program back to the banks and private guarantee companies, college students all over the nation will pause on their way to class, to their two or three minimum-wage part-time jobs, to pick up their kids from the sitter, and to fulfill whatever commitments they must keep every day. These students will pause to ask the question "Who sold us out?"
It's a fair question Ÿ one which deserves an answer.
The recent plans by House Republicans to dismantle federal student loan programs could prevent millions of Americans from beginning, continuing or completing their college degrees. If approved by Congress, the bill could increase the cost of loans by $17.8 million for ASU students and $23.3 million for UA students over the next seven years. Nationwide, Republican proposals could increase costs for 5 million undergraduates and 725,000 graduate students by an estimated $10 billion over the next seven years.
These Republican proposals will cause an increase in the origination fee on new loans for all borrowers and eliminate the reduction in interest rates already scheduled for 1998. Additionally, the Republicans would prohibit any universities from joining the student loan programs; only those colleges currently enrolled could participate.
These plans will cause both immediate and extensive harm. A traditional four-year student who gets some help from Mom and Dad would face increase costs of $1,426. For a student who receives no parental support, costs will increase by $3,100. Despite Republican promises that their proposals will result in a small tax cut, millions of families with children in college or on their way to college will be forced to take up the slack by tax breaks for the rich.
Why have students become the latest target for the Republicans' slash-and-burn tactics? The benefits of attacking students are questionable at best. Less money for students in college affects just about everyone, in one way or another. Many families simply cannot absorb any of the additional costs needed for a college education. So, who does benefit from cuts in federal student loan programs? The banks who will reap higher interest rates and fees from privatization will benefit, as will the Republicans. They figure that student loan programs make a better target than Medicaid or Social Security, which are political "sacred cows" whose recipients are often better organized and more vocal than the millions of middle-class Americans.
Who else loses by the impending slashing of student aid? Perhaps the millions of us who believed the Republicans when they said they understood the struggles of working families. Obviously, the whims of a few wealthy politicians who will not suffer the consequences of their own ideas is no reason to turn our back on the next generation. The cost of student aid is far less than the costs of sacrificing our nation's future.
Now when we ask, "Who sold us out?" the answer is clear.
President, University Democrats
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