President Obama’s announcement earlier this week that he would use executive authority to make some changes to the federal student loan program has elicited quite the negative response from the GOP. House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) said that the plan to reduce students’ debt “means more debt for students, more debt for taxpayers, and more red ink on the government’s books.” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) responded to the plan by saying “the president should stop campaigning and start working with Congress to get the results that the American people expect,” while the conservative media simply derided the plan as a gambit to “buy votes.”
However, those GOP’ers haven’t gone as far as the party’s presidential candidates, who evidently believe that the federal government should get out of the student aid business entirely. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), for instance, said that he’d phase out the federal student loan program entirely. Former pizza magnate Herman Cain, meanwhile, said that he doesn’t believe in any form of federal student aid whatsoever, believing that such aid is better off left to the states:
I believe that if a state wants to help with college education, then they should do that. Secondly, you have people living within communities within states that are willing to help fund those kinds of programs. So I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to help fund a college education because herein, our resources are limited and I believe that the best solution is the one closest to the problem. The people within the state, the people within the communities, ultimately, I believe, are the ones who have that responsibility. [...] If you want an education, a college education in America, I believe that people can get it if they are determined to get it. They might have to work a little harder. They might have to work a little longer, but the fact that we have so many options for people to get an advanced education in this nation, I think it is one of the big pluses that we have, that we offer our young people, that a lot of other countries do not offer.
Aside from the obvious logistical problems posed by devolving student loans and aid to the states (Would students receive grants from their home state or from the state in which they attend school? What if a student’s parents want or need to move midway through a student’s college years? Would she lose her aid and have to get it from either her or her parents’ new state?), federal student loans and programs like Pell Grants have helped millions of Americans access higher education.
Without federal aid, students would be pushed into riskier, more expensive private student loans, even as student loan debt is en route to eclipsing $1 trillion for the first time. Instead of trying to grapple with ever-rising student debt, the GOP just wants to make it someone else’s problem.