OTHER VOICES

Responsibility to educate

Posted May 09, 2012, at 5:29 p.m.

President Barack Obama picked an easy — but important — issue to share with college students recently.

The interest rate on the popular Stafford student loans is due to double at the end of June from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Underwriting that portion of student debt costs the federal government about $6 billion.

In these days when everything is viewed through partisan lenses, it’s important to note that deadline was set by Democrats when the rate was halved two years ago. It’s also important to note there’s little, if any, interest among Republicans in seeing the rate go back up.

In other words, despite an effort by the House to pay for the Stafford loans with cuts to the president’s health care initiative, there’s every expectation a deal will get done.

… There’s a reason student loan rates have zoomed in recent years, a reason few people are wont to discuss.

Over the past generation, states have been shedding their responsibility to educate their citizens.

Colleges have responded by aggressively raising tuition fees. Students are having to shoulder more and more of the cost of their education, and they do that by borrowing.

States have been in the education business as long as there have been states. Since the early days of the republic, there’s been recognition a functioning democracy requires an educated public. Since World War II, a college degree has been the surest way for families to move up the economic ladder. Governments were rewarded for their investments through taxes collected on the higher incomes graduates earned.

In that spirit, nearly every education mission statement includes a throw-away line that rhapsodizes about students representing our future.

If only we acted as though that were true.

The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa (May 4)

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