LOWE: I come from a very middle-class family and under President Obama, I get $5,500 per year to pay for school, which doesn’t come close to covering all of the funding, but it helps ease the burden. Under your plan, you cut it by 15 percent. I was just curious why you would cut a grant that goes directly to the middle- and lower-class people that need it the most.
RYAN: ‘Cause Pell Grants have become unsustainable. It’s all borrowed money…Look, I worked three jobs to pay off my student loans after college. I didn’t get grants, I got loans, and we need to have a system of viable student loans to be able to do this.
Think Progress takes on the policy side of this:
Ryan justified the GOP’s desire to cut the highly-necessary Pell Grant program by claiming that it costs too much; but the GOP’s budget provides huge tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations which dwarf the cost of preserving the grants. He also claimed that Pell Grants drive tuition inflation, which is a claim he has made before, while pointing to studies that didn’t actually say what he believed they said.
True! Pell Grants are an important program and, as Think Progress further points out, it's telling that in this economy, Ryan's answer to a kid concerned about paying for his education is "take on a whole lot of debt and work three jobs (jobs that aren't actually available)."
But what about Ryan's own experience? While working as a Capitol Hill staffer, Ryan did "moonlight" at "side jobs," according to one profile. But according to another (fawning) profile, he also used government money to help pay for college. Ryan's father passed away when he was 16, and:
With his father’s passing, young Paul collected Social Security benefits until age 18, which he put away for college.
Paul Ryan wants to portray his experience as some kind of typical middle-class struggle that anyone can emulate. That's the basis he offers for condemning $5,500 Pell Grants as "unsustainable" and trying to cut them, adding to the $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the United States and forcing new college graduates already facing high unemployment and falling entry-level wages to enter their adult lives even deeper in the hole. But he's relied on government money virtually his entire adult life, starting with Social Security that helped pay for college, then working on Capitol Hill before being elected to Congress at 28.