“When I’m president, I will make college affordable for every American.” -- President Obama, 2008
Any student who voted for President Obama--in either 2008 or 2012--in order to cut their college costs was sold a bill of goods. In Obama’s first four years, national tuition prices rose 25 percent and average graduating loan debt rose 16 percent.
Now, the Obama-signed sequester (aka “fiscal cliff”) includes an 8.2 percent cut in non-Pell student aid, an across-the-board cut of more than $140 million. Student loan origination fees will also go up $91 million.
During the campaign, Obama had the nerve to say, "Making higher education more affordable for our young people -- it’s something I’ve got a personal stake in... Putting a college education within reach of working families doesn't seem to be a priority for my opponent."
So, was Obama ever planning on telling young Americans about the cuts in student aid, or was he just trying to win his election with more empty promises?
In the second debate of the campaign, President Obama said that he was going to make sure that young people are able to “afford a college education”. He also said he would keep the “Pell Grant program growing” while increasing access to federal student loan aid.
But not once did we hear the President address the fact that his easy student loan policies are the driving force of increases in tuition, nor that student loan aid and grants would be cut if compromises weren’t made in December.
The nearly endless federal student loan aid championed by President Obama is the sole reason why tuition has increased by 25 percent in the last four years. Higher education bureaucrats have had no incentive to keep tuition low while they keep receiving endless federal money. The President’s federal loan policies are viewed by higher education fat cats as a blank check: why keep prices low when we can get more?
And while the President was gloating about his Pell Grant and student aid programs, he failed to mention--or strategically left out--that neither of these programs are safe in the sequestration.
If there fails to be any compromise or decisions made by our elected leaders in Washington, millions of students will be affected by cuts in student loan aid. All student loan programs will be cut by 8.2 percent--or $140 million each--when the sequestration goes into effect in January. Many other higher education programs, including many graduate programs, will also take a hefty $153 million cut.
Then there’s the Pell Grant program.
Pell Grants, roughly $42 billion, are exempt from the first year of cuts in the sequestration--but only for the first year. Even Pell Grants won’t escape the fiscal chopping block beyond 2013. With the President’s willingness to chop student loan aid for his precious tax hikes, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Pell Grants took a major cut.
Students may finally see cheaper tuition with fewer federal loans and grants flowing into the pocketbooks of the higher education bureaucrats--but not without consequences.
The slash in federal aid and grants will inevitably lead to fewer students attending college. That’s certainly not what young Americans were told or what they voted for in this election.
But, as everyone has been tirelessly saying, elections have consequences. The “fiscal cliff” isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s been an economic reality that’s been looming on the horizon. And just like the “fiscal cliff”, the president’s empty playbook isn’t new either. President Obama has been packaging lies for young people for the last four years, and conservative leaders should have been on campus exposing them.
They didn’t, and now we have four more years to look “forward” to and we start by heading “forward” off the fiscal cliff. Young Americans will continue to learn the hard way that President Obama’s policies won’t help their future.