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By: Inoljt,

The rising cost of higher education is one of the main ailments affecting America. The earnings differential between those with college degrees and those without has become greater during this recession. This is because the recession hit jobs like construction, which don't require a college degree, especially hard.

So as college becomes more expensive and more important, it becomes harder for the poor to climb the economic ladder. American inequality is a fundamental problem today, and the rising cost of college doesn't help.

With this context in mind, I recently had the displeasure of reading one of the most heartless articles I've ever looked at.

More below.

This article, by conservative commentator Michael Barone, argued that the rising cost of college is due to government subsidies. Specifically, college is so expensive because the government keeps on giving money to poor people so that they can attend college:

...government has been subsidizing higher education with low-interest college loans, Pell grants, and cheap tuitions at state colleges and universities.

The predictable result is that higher education costs have risen much faster than inflation, much faster than personal incomes, much faster than the economy over the past 40 years.

What is Mr. Barone's presumed solution? Stop giving federal aid to poor people who want to attend college! After all, "government subsidies can go too far."

Firstly, Mr. Barone is wrong on why college costs are rising so exponentially. The value of "government subsidies" has in fact gone down as college tuition has risen. The federal Pell Grant gives low-income students money to attend college. When it was first introduced in 1979, it covered three-fourths the cost of the typical four-year university. Today it covers only about one-third the cost of a typical four-year university. For private universities, it amounts to barely more than one-tenth the cost.

But that's almost beside the point. What this article really brought to mind is my fundamental problem with conservatism and the Republican Party. Mr. Barone's article lacks a single note of empathy for the poor. Indeed, in today's political climate, conservatives have actually made the phrase "helping the poor" sound like a bad thing.

And this pattern is not just related to the poor. It always seems that conservatives and Republicans are against actions helping those society has left behind - whether it be minorities, immigrants, the poor, women, or whomever. Fundamentally, and to speak impolitely but honestly, they just don't give a damn about anybody unlike themselves.

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Comment Preferences

  •  While I still think I've read more heartless (6+ / 0-)

    things from various Republicans, I have to give a big 'WTF' to the underpants gnomes logic of Mr Barone on 'why higher education costs have risen'.

    Of course, that's standard 'logic' for Republican talking heads and politicians, as witness 'Saudi Arabians based in Afghanistan and Pakistan have bombed the Word Trade Center and the Pentagon!  Quickly, we must institute a war of aggression against Iraq!'

  •  How Randian of that soulless nonegalitarian (6+ / 0-)

    and unAmerican lickspittle of the far right.

    Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

    by J Edward on Sat Sep 10, 2011 at 04:52:51 PM PDT

  •  It's 90% heartless drivel but 10% true. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    At the margins, the readiness of the federal government to pay in part for the college education of poor and middle-class Americans has driven up the list price of that education.  This is a cost of doing business, the business in this case being the societal value of having more people go to college.  

    The Rent Is Too Damn High Party feels that if you want to marry a shoe, I'll marry you. --Jimmy McMillan

    by Rich in PA on Sat Sep 10, 2011 at 04:59:04 PM PDT

    •  Yes, but the biggest contributor (4+ / 0-)

      has got to be the education finance industry. Both subsidized and non-subsidized loans are available for almost any kind of education, including expensive private trade schools and schools of very poor quality. Young people borrow big bucks to get a shitty education, and then cannot possibly repay their loans. The educational finance industry has many similarities to the residential subprime industry, and just as subprime loans increased the prices of houses, subprime student loans have increased the cost of tuition (because colleges can basically charge whatever amount the students can borrow).

      Don't tell me what I can't do! I'll tread on you if I feel like it...

      by doc2 on Sat Sep 10, 2011 at 05:55:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And most education loans are exempt.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tardis10, OHdog, Inoljt

        ...from being discharged by bankruptcy.

        Student loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy prior to 1976. With the introduction of the US Bankruptcy Code (11 USC 101 et seq) in 1978, the ability to discharge education loans was limited. Subsequent changes in the law have further narrowed the dischargeability of education debt.

        The original logic was sound. Federal education loans are guaranteed by the U.S. government and, therefore, the taxpayers. In return for their guarantee, taxpayers deserve some extra protection against losing their hard-earned dollars. And the same protection is granted to private lenders.

        The current discussion results from bankruptcy reform in 2005. Congress extended government lender protection to the private education loan sources. These lenders are for-profit corporations, earning higher interest rates while offering limited choices for restructuring student loan debt.


        Lobbyists doing what they are paid to do.

        •  That was a terrible bill. (0+ / 0-)

          It was written and passed by lobbyists, and it shows.

          The fact that student debt can't be erased by bankruptcy wholly defeats the purpose of bankruptcy, one of the founding reasons why capitalism can succeed.

          by Inoljt on Sun Sep 11, 2011 at 02:22:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  People like Barone have no sense (5+ / 0-)

    of obligation to pitch in for the common good. They can't see that by investing in and helping poor kids get an education they lift the country. Above all, they hate parting with one penny unless it's for their personal benefit.

  •  Besides, we don't need no stinkin' (0+ / 0-)

    college education these days. We're all working at the Big Box and Burger Flipper joints. Why any college kid today would spend $20,000 a year or more for college when jobs these days barely pay $20,000 a year is beyond me. You graduate a good $30,000 in debt and work somewhere for $10 an hour. Takes a good 10 years to pay that off, so you're "even" after ten years. Better you should take that $20,000 to Vegas. It's a much better time and you come home only $20,000 in debt. A bargain!

  •  It's more heartless than this: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini, sewaneepat
    It always seems that conservatives and Republicans are against actions helping those society has left behind

    They actually are actively trying to increase the numbers of those that society has left behind. Particularly if those individuals are from certain groups.

    Bipartisan analogy: Both musicians and fishermen want more bass.

    by OHdog on Sat Sep 10, 2011 at 08:35:01 PM PDT

  •  Conservative economics seem to be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    based entirely on simple nostrums about supply and demand that one learns in grade school.

    It might be useful to compare the economic gain derived from a college educated populace with other industrial democracies and their contributions and cost bases.

    I do think there is a lot of scamming by private institutions.
    I am fifty-five, attended college in 1975-77 and returned later in life and earned  a degree in 1987.

    It is hard to compare these two as the former was at a state university and the latter at Columbia University. As pricey as Columbia was at the time, I believe costs have gone up two or three times since my attendance there.

    A lot of private institutions, while not for profit, nevertheless seem to becoming large real estate and construction enterprises. In NYC, this is true of both Columbia and NYU. This may account for some of the
    steep increase in tuition.

  •  A note (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sewaneepat, Allogenes
    So as college becomes more expensive and more important, it becomes harder for the poor to climb the economic ladder.

    This is vitally true, and unquestionably bad.  The goal should be that every kid who's qualified and wants to go to college can.

    But along with that, I think we need to note that the fact that in most cases you need a college education in order to achieve a middle class living (less college loans, which cannot be discharged through bankruptcy) is also bad.

    Some kids are not prepared for college at 17 or 18.  Anyone who went to an ordinary public schools and remembers the experience honestly remembers that there were kids who didn't or couldn't do the work, and didn't or couldn't focus on academics.  

    I'm all for finding ways to help kids learn and achieve.  But I am NOT for the proposition that the goal must be, "everyone goes to college".  IMHO, that's how the for-profit colleges that invite people to rack up loans but don't actually prepare people for jobs (or do so at 10x the cost of community colleges) prosper.  

    I want to see a return to the days when you could make a decent living without a degree.

  •  Thanks for the diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    On a side note, the local university in my town, the University of the South, known better as simply Sewanee, lowered tuition, room and board (and maybe books) by 10% this year so as to help people afford it. Granted it is a private university, but  their charges were already reasonable when compared to other private colleges. So I give a round of applause to the administration of this university.

    You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

    by sewaneepat on Sun Sep 11, 2011 at 03:55:07 AM PDT

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