Last night, FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey appeared on CNN’s Parker Spitzer to advocate for his conservative views and the tea party. Armey explained that he wants to inject tea party values into mainstream American political culture and wants its politics to define the modern Republican Party.
At one point, Spitzer asked Armey a series of questions about what he thinks the government should and should not be involved in funding to try to “add texture” to what the FreedomWorks chairman believes. During this question period, the CNN host asked Armey if he would “have the federal government pay for higher education?” Armey bluntly responded, “No, I would not.” He then went on to say that the university system of his home state of Texas has “not been made any better by federal money involvement:”
SPITZER: Would you have the federal government pay for higher education?
ARMEY: No I would not.
SPITZER: You would not have any funding?
ARMEY: No. I don’t think the federal government’s involvement in education has benefited the students of America.
PARKER: Wait a minute, finish that thought if you don’t mind.
ARMEY: The federal government has the military academies and it’s an important thing they should continue to do that. But the education of our young people oughta be under the jurisdiction and auspices of the state governments. The state of Texas has a great university system that has not been made any better by federal money involvement.
SPITZER: So you would rip out all the money that goes to the universities and say let the states increase their taxes to pay for it.
ARMEY: Let the states manage the education of their young people.
Armey’s claim that the “federal government’s involvement in education” hasn’t “benefited the students of America” is wildly false. The FreedomWorks chairman’s statement ignores the billions of dollars in federally subsidized loans and grants that enable tens of millions of Americans students to be able to afford to go to college. In the 2008-2009 academic year, federal student loan disbursements totaled $75.1 billion. The same year, “$18.4 billion in Pell Grants averaging approximately $2,973 to 6.2 million students.” A whopping 19 million college students applied for federal assistance this year.
Texas students are major benificiaries of this spending. Students in the state actually utilize federal student loans at a level above that of the average U.S. student. During the 2006-2007 school year, 83 percent of Texans utilized federal student loans, compared to 71 percent of Americans. Additionally, thousands of Texan students receive the federal Pell Grant in order to afford their college education. From 2007-2008, 402,425 Texan students recieved the Pell Grant, totalling $1,077,915,908 in federal assistance for the state. At the state’s largest and flagship university, the University of Texas-Austin, 21 percent of students recieved the Pell Grant during the the same time period. One has to wonder if Armey really believes that Texas’s university system really isn’t “any better” thanks to all of this “federal money involvement.”