Debra J. Saunders
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"No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don't have the money," President Barack Obama told the Democratic National Convention as he accepted his party's nomination in Charlotte, N.C., this month.

That sentence -- key in Obama's "college affordability" agenda -- says everything about this administration's approach to selling itself to the American voter.

What's wrong with the message? Let me count the ways.

--It ignores reality. There is no reason a qualified poor kid cannot get into college in the United States simply because of money.

Richard J. Vedder, director of Ohio University's Center for College Affordability and Productivity, told me that Obama's correct, "people might get an acceptance at a relatively expensive private school that they can't afford to go to." But if students are accepted into one college, they can get into another, more affordable college, such as a community college, where Pell Grants cover tuition.

"If he's saying that not everyone can get into whatever college they want to get into, he's probably right," Vedder said. "I'm not sure that the American people would agree that every student should be able to get into the school they want." As an example, he mentioned Harvard University.

--It hints that GOP rival Mitt Romney would usher in a Hobbesian era in which poor kids are denied all opportunity to a college education.

To the contrary, Brookings Institution fellow Beth Akers recently blogged that Romney has "expressed a preference for redistributing aid dollars toward the neediest students."

Akers concluded that both Obama and Romney want to "tackle" college affordability -- Romney through market-based reforms, Obama with increased Pell Grants and price controls.

--It ignores the fact that a college education is not a ticket to the middle class or beyond if graduates cannot land good jobs.

The Associated Press crunched government data recently and found that 53 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. These graduates need good jobs far more than they need a break paying off their student loans. They need careers. They need to see an economic future, a path that can lead them out of a downsized economy.

Recent graduates need a president who can instill employers with the confidence to hire new workers. Yet all Obama can do is wave the promise of bigger loans that are easier to pay off.

Or not pay off.

--It peddles a form of loan forgiveness in the name of "affordability."

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Debra J. Saunders


 
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