The Crisis of Higher Education in the U.S.

The state of higher education in the United States is deplorable; it is extremely costly, but the investment has become decreasingly worthwhile.  Students bear the burden of extraordinarily expensive education, which results in massive debt, and they are left with – especially now – mediocre results, to flounder in a job market that leaves much to be desired.

Even the left can see this problem, though their prescriptions for change are indubitably different.  Indeed, “two-thirds of students who earn undergraduate degrees end up shouldering more than $25,000 in debt, and 1 in 10 owe more than $54,000, a 2012 Center for American Progress report found.”  Furthermore, minorities are even more likely to need a loan of this kind “as need-based federal aid for low-income students has become insufficient to cover rising tuitions.”

Of course, the federal government is largely to blame for a couple of reasons.

First, as the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke and Stuart M. Butler explain, the accreditation process, “a feature of the traditional education system,” remains an obstacle to innovations that would decrease the costs of receiving an advanced degree.  Second, there is a provision buried deep in Obamacare that “effectively nationalized the student loan industry by ending government subsidies to private lenders and putting the federal government in charge of originating and servicing federally backed student loans.”

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Slow Your Roll on Head Start

When the House returns to session next week, one of the items on the agenda will be tackling the remaining $51 billion in supplemental disaster relief spending for Hurricane Sandy.  The House already approved $9 billion in increased funds for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)—a program that has historically been poorly managed and needed several bailouts. Unfortunately, much of the $51 billion yet to be voted on is chock full of pork, special interest handouts, and spending so outrageously unrelated it would make even a trial lawyer blush with shame.

Embedded within the two amendment packages outlined by Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) are funds for the Head Start program—some $25 million in the Rogers’ package and some $100 million in the Frelinghuysen package. The Senate-passed bill also included $100 million in funds for Head Start.

Now a reasonable question to be asked is how giving an additional $100 million (with no offsets) to “repair” Head Start centers qualifies as emergency disaster relief. An even better question, thanks in large part to Heritage’s Lindsey Burke and David Muhlhausen, is why taxpayers should even continue funding this failed relic of the Great Society in the first place.

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The Sorry State of Education in America

During last night’s debate, President Obama touted the successes of his administration’s education policies and their cooperation with forty-six governors.  Specifically, he noted math and science as two major areas in which improvement can be seen.  He was making reference to the Common Core Standards Initiative.

How has the Obama administration accomplished this?  Through Race to the Top, the federal government persuades states to adopt these common standards by offering each state funding contingent upon their compliance with the standards.

Once the money is allotted to the states, is it used wisely?  $350 million of Race to the Top was earmarked for the funding of national assessments in math and English Language Arts (ELA) to ensure that they were all fitting into the federal government’s cookie cutter standards.  

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Lawmakers Breaking the Trust

Today, the House and Senate are rushing to complete a $100-plus billion monstrosity that combines transportation, student loans and food insurance. There are many reasons to oppose the bill (Heritage Action Key Vote: NO), and Table 3 from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the bill is another reason:

Notice all the c’s?

The subsequent footnote explains that the bill would cause the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to “be exhausted in fiscal year 2015.” In other words, the bill BREAKS the federal highway trust fund. Last year, House Republicans recognized that “current program funding levels are not sustainable” and offered reforms to realign spending with revenues.

Unfortunately, the list of absurdities goes on and on. Two are worth highlighting in the context of the Pledge to America:

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Student Loan Extension: Bad Policy, Bad Politics

The passage of H.R. 4628 on Friday signaled a troubling return to the days of promoting bad policy for the sake of what Washington insiders perceive to be “good” politics. Thirty Republicans, led by Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), stood firm in their belief that the government should not be in the business of subsidizing higher education and voted against the bill. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Republicans took the opposite approach.

This legislation will keep the current Stafford student loan interest rate at 3.4 percent and prevent it from returning to its 2007 rate of 6.8 percent. As someone who still possesses outstanding student loans, I fully realize that I am expected to be ecstatic about this news as President Obama makes it seem like it would benefit me personally. However, what the President is not admitting is that the bill will only benefit those applying for taxpayer-subsidized Stafford loans between July 1st of this year and June 30th of next year.

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