A recent Associated Press-Viacom poll found that among college students, bad grades were not their biggest concern. It was finances. When asked to list the reasons why they might drop out of school, money problems were most frequently cited as the culprit.
It’s an understandable concern. Today, 6 of 10 college students borrow money to pay for their education. And, according to the poll, they routinely worry about not having enough money to get through the week — the week, not the month or the semester.
Despite all the attention paid to the joys of college life, to the sports and parties and fun of transitioning from high school to the real world, the fact is that a majority of them already are in the real world of personal finance.
They scrimp, hold down part-time (and full-time) jobs, double up (or more) on housing, and take more classes than they should each semester to get through faster.
Recession-battered parents are not able to help as much as they once could. Pre-paid college tuition programs like Alabama’s PACT are being cut. Meanwhile, public colleges, which once advertised themselves as “state-supported,” now look at what they get from the state Legislatures and wonder if they should say they are “state-assisted” instead.
Tuition gets raised, over and over again.
And now, as the severity of this situation is hitting home, students and their families are presented with Republican budget hawk Paul Ryan’s proposal. U.S. Rep. Ryan, of Wisconsin, proposes that Pell Grants, the federal program that underwrites many of the loans students need to go to college, will be reduced to 2008 (pre-stimulus) levels in order to reduce the federal deficit.
In essence, this would make approximately 1.7 million currently eligible students ineligible.
Ryan justifies this by asserting that increases in Pell Grant money lead to increases in tuition at private universities. So, his reasoning follows, a reduction in Pell Grants will help tuition stabilize. There is no recent, credible evidence to support this claim. Nor is the claim particularly relevant since most Pell Grant recipients attend public, not private, colleges.
True, under the Ryan/GOP plan, some money will be saved — initially.
However, under the Ryan/GOP plan, fewer students, especially students from low-income families, will go to college.
Under this plan, these students are likely to be stuck in low-paying jobs, if they can find jobs at all.
Under this plan, the American workforce will be less educated and, it follows, less productive.
Under this plan, America will lose its competitive edge in the world market.
Under this plan, the nation eventually will lose more money than it saves.
This is what the Ryan/GOP plan will do for higher education and for America.