Friday, January 19, 2018

Republicans Want to Change Higher Education Finance and Rules

Some Good and a Lot of Bad

The college and university system in the U. S. is a disaster. The schools themselves are bloated bureaucracies. The faculty is overpaid and inefficient. Students leave college with large debt and in many cases no real career prospects. The athletic department needs drive the college. And for profit schools have left thousands with massive debts and no futures.

Republicans are going to try and change this.

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives this week will propose sweeping legislation that aims to change where Americans go to college, how they pay for it, what they study, and how their success—or failure—affects the institutions they attend.

As usual with Republicans, part of the program is a bail out/gift to private sector schools who rip off low income, low performing students.

One of the biggest winners in the new higher education legislation is the for-profit college industry, which faced a major crackdown under the Obama administration, amid concerns about students who failed to finish programs and were left saddled with major debt and no way to pay for it.

The rollback of those regulations has been under way since President Donald Trump took office. The reauthorization proposal goes a step further by prohibiting future action by the Education Department on what’s known as the gainful employment regulation, which ties access to federal student aid to whether career programs lead to decent-paying jobs.

This will be a terrible outcome for the most vulnerable students. But some of the reforms may actually benefit students and their families.

As part of its plan to rein in student loans, graduate students and parents of undergraduates would face so far unspecified caps on how much they could borrow for tuition and living expenses—instead of borrowing whatever schools charge.
The change could cut into enrollment and potentially siphon off billions of dollars a year from universities.

This would end the free ride for colleges and force them to clean up their act, to become more responsive to their student body instead of themselves. But of course, since this is a Republican effort it has to have punitive measures.

The bill would also end loan-forgiveness programs for public-service employees, who currently can make 10 years of payments and then have their remaining debt forgiven, tax-free. It would also eliminate a program that ties monthly payments to income levels for private-sector workers. Current participants in both programs would be grandfathered in.

Reform is needed, and maybe just maybe common sense and Democrats could get rid of enough of the bad stuff to make the bill a net positive.

Hope doth spring eternal.

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