The Corner

Are Students Drowning in Debt?

Sure, but it’s from Obama’s policies, not student loans.

President Obama used remarks at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on Friday to discuss the crushing student-loan burdens faced by many college graduates. While it’s certainly a great goal to make quality education accessible to all Americans, the way to do it is to make education market-based and stop the government from distorting prices and propping up demand.

Capping student-loan payments at 10 percent of monthly income, or threatening to reduce federal aid to colleges that don’t put artificial caps on tuition, would do nothing to address the problem of skyrocketing education costs in this country. While the federal government should be out of the education business completely, Obama’s proposals will make a broken system worse.

President Obama’s rhetoric appeals to the populist narrative that student loans are symptomatic of an unfair system that betrays the American way, which would offer everyone the same shot at wealth and prosperity. His rhetoric on student debt, and more importantly his policies on it, amount to nothing more than a brazen attempt to bribe college students for their votes with our tax dollars.

Instead of constantly pumping more money into an already distorted education market, government should do everything it can to get out of the way, allow free-market competition between lenders, schools, and students, and focus on the real student debt: the $48,000 Americans owe to the federal government at birth, twice the average debt owed by college graduates. It’s made worse every day by policies that have ballooned the national debt by trillions since Obama took office in 2009.

President Obama’s focus on student debt is his attempt at a political sleight of hand with students: ignore the massive debt you already owe by no fault of your own, and focus on this debt half its size that you incurred by choice. 

— Chris Chocola, a former congressman from Indiana, is president of the Club for Growth.

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