Waging War on Higher Education (Opinion)

Ann McClure's picture
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Higher education is currently under assault in America. Even in the recent past you could count on bi-partisan support of systems of higher education that have long been considered the foundation of American prosperity. We used to think that a robust system of public education was the wellspring of social innovation and scientific invention.

Recent debate in the public sphere, however, has questioned these previously taken for granted assumptions about higher education in America. Indeed, powerful politicians and influential pundits are making suggestions that could undermine higher education, especially public higher education, for years to come.

Consider the views of presumptive GOP presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney. Given his vantage as one of the super-rich, Mr. Romney seems to be ignorant of the financial hurdles that the vast majority of college and university students must negotiate to get a decent education. Until recently he, like the conservative base of the GOP, supported doubling the interest rates on student loans. As for the loans themselves: no problem.

In an unguarded, unscripted moment he told one student that no one was going to just give her money she needed. What she needed to do was take advantage of the competitive market and shop around for the best loan rate. In response to another such question, he advised students to find a less expensive college, borrow money from their parents, or start a business.

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