One aspect of the debt ceiling deal that has been under-reported is the way it would change the federal student aid program. While it admirably boosts Pell Grant appropriations in order to maintain the maximum grant, keeping the program strong for American students, it severely cuts another important federal aid program.
Under the text of the bill, the federal subsidized graduate student loan program would be ended, with an estimated savings of $26.3 billion from 2012 from 2021:
It is important to note that under student lending reform passed in 2009, the poorest students would still receive assistance for their loans thanks to newly-enacted Income Based Repayment (IBR), and this shift would not make graduate education any more expensive for those students.
While it appears that Congress may soon pass a bill that could leave many graduate students paying far more for their education, it’s instructive to compare the cost of ending this program with another expenditure: the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. is spending roughly $300 million a day in Afghanistan, meaning that it spends roughly $27 billion on that war over three months. Americans are left to wonder which cost-saving measure would be more worthwhile.