2012 presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney released his higher education plan Wednesday, decrying the nation’s “education crisis.” During a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Romney blamed President Obama for rising tuition prices and increasing student debt.
Of course, tuition increases and growing debt are a phenomenon several decades in the making. And Romney’s plan would make the problem decidedly worse in two important ways, giving federal money away to Wall Street banks and predatory for-profit colleges, two industries to which Romney has extensive ties.
First, as he’s promised before, Romney intends to divert money away from student aid — instead giving it away to banks — by repealing Obama’s student loan reforms:
Reverse President Obama’s nationalization of the student loan market and welcome private sector participation in providing information, financing, and the education itself.
President Obama did not nationalize the student loan market. (Plenty of banks still make private sector student loans.) Instead, Obama and the Democrats cut private banks out of the federal student loan program, ending billions in subsidies that were needlessly going to banks for acting as loan middlemen. The money saved went into the Pell Grant program. Romney’s plan would entail taking away Pell money in order to pay Wall Street to service federal loans.
Second, Romney would remove regulations meant to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges:
Ill-advised regulation imposed by the Obama administration, such as the so-called “Gainful Employment” rule, has made it even harder for some providers to operate, while distorting their incentives.
This rule simply states that colleges leaving too many students crippled with debt and without good jobs lose their access to federal dollars. Many for-profit schools make nearly all of their revenue from the federal government — in the form of the various streams of aid used by their students — yet have much high rates of student loan default than public schools. Only 11 percent of higher education students in the country attend for-profit schools, but they account for 26 percent of federal student loans and 44 percent of student loan defaults.
Romney is already intimately tied to the for-profit college industry. Inside Higher Ed noted that two of his advisers “have lobbied on behalf of the Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix.” On the campaign trail, Romney has effusively praised Full Sail University, a for-profit institution. And it seems that his policy platform would be a boon to this industry which is, in many instances, extremely predatory.