This is the world we live in now, folks. One where conservatives think students borrowing money from the government is an "entitlement." Back in the days when people were sane, we used to believe paying for our young people to be educated was an
May 6, 2012

This is the world we live in now, folks. One where conservatives think students borrowing money from the government is an "entitlement." Back in the days when people were sane, we used to believe paying for our young people to be educated was an obligation of a healthy democracy. Now, it's all up to kids who are expected not only to pay for their college educations, but to bury themselves deep in debt to do it. Listen to George Will's arrogant pronouncement:

TAPPER: And, George, you and I were talking about this earlier. You think that we're witnessing the birth of a new entitlement, with the president's push on -- on student loans.

WILL: Well, look what happened. It's a slow-motion, almost absentminded creation of a new entitlement, exactly at the moment when the entitlement state is buckling under the weight of its already existing commitments. Five years ago, Congress says, well, let's cut in half the interest rate on certain student loans, from 6.8 to 3.4.

Wow, no brownie points to Jake Tapper for just repeating that nonsense without so much as a raised eyebrow. Entitlement? Really?

From the time our kids are in kindergarten, parents, teachers and society alike hammer home the value of their education. By the time they're freshmen in high school, they're expected to know what they want their career to be and forge a pathway to college. If they want to get into something other than a community college, they're told to stress out for the next four years, take all the AP or IB classes they can, volunteer in their communities, participate in extracurricular activities, work a part-time job, and make sure they maintain their straight As in the process.

Those who actually manage to do these things are then rewarded with acceptances to the colleges of their choice and immediately presented with a bill for anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 per year. If they're really lucky, they might win one of the few scholarships available to shave some of the pain off that bottom line, but there are no guarantees.

If they're not, they're told they can borrow around $5,000 per year from the government, and if their parents qualify, mom and dad can borrow about $25,000 from the government to send them to that school. Here's what happens: Those kids who we pushed to achieve and qualify for those public and sometimes private university educations land in community college for a couple of years while they try to save enough money to go to a 4-year university and not go broke in the process.

If they choose the 4-year university/tuition loan route, they leave school with debt, hazy job prospects, and the sense that everything they just worked toward was a farce. Which it will be, if Will has his way.

TAPPER: 6.8 to 3.4, yeah.

WILL: We'll do it, they said, temporarily. Well, now we're coming up against the expiration of that, and they're saying, well, let's temporarily move it on yet again.

TAPPER: But Romney supports that, as well.

WILL: I understand that. And that's why this is a bipartisan example of how entitlements -- because once you do this, once you extend it again, you'll never go back to 3.4 percent.

SMILEY: But when -- but when -- but when student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt, and we want to label that an entitlement, we don't call corporate welfare an entitlement. I just -- I don't see...

WILL: Of the two-thirds of the people who graduate from college with debt, the average debt is something under $30,000 total. That is just about the one-year difference in earnings between a college graduate and a high school graduate. We're talking about a pittance a month (ph).


SMILEY: But, George -- but if we give interest-free loans to bankers, why not interest-free loans to students, George?

WILL: Let's not give interest-free loans to anyone.

At last! Something I agree with George Will about. Truly, let's not give interest-free loans to the banks, and let's not make students and their struggling middle class parents break under the weight of student loans. Instead, let's recognize that this country has always believed that educating our children is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy, and start paying for it again the way we have in the past.

The reason Will and his ilk argue against student loan interest rate breaks is simple: They want to control which students have access to a college education. Their preferred flavor of student is a conservative one. They truly believe educating those librul ingrates who show up at Occupy protests or dare to question the status quo are unworthy of an education. If conservatives could choose which students got a college education, they'd be the very compliant sons and daughters of fine, upstanding, churchgoing types. The ones who qualify for Koch scholarships.

The ones like people in my family who protested the Vietnam war, went to college in the days when the University of California was tuition-free, and then dedicated themselves to public service for their entire career? They need not apply if their voter registration says "Democrat."

I'm completely serious about the need to return to the values that made this country great, and those values include assuming the costs for educating our young people and making sure they have the finest education possible in order to innovate, create, and shape a new, better, more equal world. Enough of the philosophy of educating only caretakers for the oligarchs.

Not only should there be no interest charged on student loans, there should be no student loans. It's as simple as that.

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