Thursday, April 22, 2004

Higher education lock-out

crossposted at The American Street
Certainly there hasn't been a lot of media attention on this topic but the grim reality is that the Bush policies have made it much more difficult for our kids to attend college.

Looking at the excellent but depressing summaries at the Center for American Progress, the DNC, American Council on Education, and Senator Kerry's site, my quick take:

1. Tuition costs have risen dramatically during these Bush years; whatever the specific numbers, these percentages are high. According to the Center for American Progress figures, it's risen 28% overall. The DNC site estimates that costs for 4 year colleges have risen 35% during the Bush years. Since states have been struggling with deficits, the inevitable side-effect is that college funding has been cut drastically in many states. The DNC special report on higher ed notes that tuition costs have risen in 49 out of 50 states in 2003.

2. Bush has betrayed college students by reneging on his campaign promise to increase Pell grant funding. In fact, Pell grant program cuts out over 8,000 students in the 2005 budget. Wonderful.

3. Pell grants aren't the only thing cut from the budget; this next year's education budget provides less money for higher education. The American Council on Education finds that next year's proposed Bush education budget shortchanges higher ed, cutting out 38 programs completely.

4. Bush plans are to make it even harder for students to attend college. Case in point: student loans. When students and families are getting into record debt to pay for college, the Republicans have plans to change the interest rate structure on student loans, meaning higher payments for college graduates. Paperwight provides a thoughtful discussion on student loans.

5. While families need to spend a record amount of money out of their budget to pay for education, many more cannot afford college for their kids. According to John Kerry, 220,000 students have been priced out of college this year. Some states have been hit harder than others; his campaign compiled this estimate of numbers of students who were unable to attend college:
    Ohio 19,940
    California 16,238
    Pennsylvania 14,325
    Indiana 10,950
    Texas, 10,700
    Michigan 10,604
    New Jersey 8,884
    South Carolina 8,714
    Illinois 8,577
    Minnesota 8,222

For those who want help, it won't happen with the current regime in power. If anything, the prognosis looks like it'll only get worse. It's clear that this administration does not value funding higher education. Maybe they just want colleges to be just for the wealthy.

Kerry has responded with a new college assistance plan. He's been busy campaigning at college campuses recently.

College access has always been considered one major doorway to achieving a better life. Closing these doors only increases societal inequality. Even with a kindergartener at home who is a few years away from college, I'm concerned. This trend to close off college access is enough to scare the wits out of any non-rich parent who wants their kids to attend college. Needless to say, it'll only get worse without a regime change. Let's get this information out to the college age kids and their parents in time for the vote in November.

Center for American Progress
John Kerry on higher education
American Council on Education
National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education