Papastefan: GOP education policy more sustainable, realistic


Grant Papastefan, Columnist

The importance of politics in education simply can’t be ignored. Just look at the past few years, with the Common Core coming under harsh scrutiny, President Obama promising “free” community college and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders one-upping him with the promise of “free” higher education at four-year public institutions. These promises have captured the attention and support of college students across the country, including many here at NU, but unfortunately, they do not add up. Before running to the polls and casting your ballot for Sanders and his education proposal, consider the less glamorous, but much more reasonable, Republican take on education.

Most Republicans agree that Common Core is a broken system. Instead of implementing national standards for education, Republicans support the use of block grants, which allow state and local governments to use federal funding for education as they see best fit. Another key tenet of the Republican education platform is the idea of family literacy programs to improve the reading, language and life skills of low-income families.

As for soaring higher education costs, it is important to consider how we got to this point. In a study published July 2015 by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, it was determined that for every dollar of Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, tuition increased by 65 cents, while Pell Grants prompted a 50-cent-on-the-dollar increase. The study found that, just as banks provided irresponsible loans to homebuyers in 2008, inflating home prices above their worth, a series of congressional acts by a Democratic congress between 2006 and 2008 expanded the line of credit to students, prompting big increases in college tuition. Federal aid is clearly not the solution to make tuition affordable, so to seek to expand on a proven failure in policy would be irresponsible. Sanders’ proposal may sound too good to be true, and that is because it is.

Republican policy provides a sensible, sustainable alternative to “free” tuition. Recognizing that the current system of federal aid is counterintuitive, and that paying for tuition with a tax on Wall Street is volatile and dangerous, the GOP proposes the government serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector to provide loans to students. The GOP also holds there should be a more transparent, educational process for families to evaluate various programs’ graduation rates, repayment rates and future earnings.

The cost of higher education is out of control. While Democrats seek to win votes by promising expansions on failed policy paid for by unreliable markets, Republicans provide a more reasonable alternative. Americans are not outraged when we are expected to pay for a meal or clothes, so we should not be surprised by the notion that something as valuable as higher education comes at a cost. As of now that cost is too high, but if you vote Republican it could get better.

Grant Papastefan is a Bienen freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.