This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Higher Education Act, but instead of commemorating it by reaffirming our commitment to education and opportunity for all, Congress is scheduled to vote on the largest federal college financial aid cuts in our history.I sent a letter to the editor to answer some of the worst arguments against tax cuts, so called cuts in social programs and most of all, his assertions that both cause shortages of engineers our high-tech companies need to grow. The letter was published today. It is unfortunately limited to only 200 words and not available online. The editor of the Times gave it a pretty nice title.
Congressional Republicans are on the verge of cutting approximately $15 billion in federal college financial aid. Included in these cuts are nearly $8 billion in new charges that will raise the cost of college loans – through new fees and higher interest – for millions of American students and families who borrow to pay for college. For the typical student borrower, already saddled with $17,500 in debt, these new fees and higher interest charges could cost up to $5,800.
Congress is voting on this raid on student aid (as well as health care and other vital services) in order to provide a $70 billion package of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, half with incomes over $1 million per year.
This raid on student aid breaks the (formerly) bipartisan commitment to education and opportunity for all. It is wrong to cut financial aid for students and families already struggling to pay for college.
Financial barriers should not prevent qualified students from going to college, and that is why America has long made the commitment to help families afford higher education.
Making it harder for students to go to college not only undercuts our promise to individuals, it undermines America’s economy and world leadership. Studies show that financial barriers will prevent 4.4 million high school graduates from attending a four-year public university over the next decade and prevent another two million from attending any college at all. The nation is facing a shortage of 12 million college-educated workers by 2020.
In 2004, China graduated 600,000 engineers, and India graduated 350,000. America graduated just 70,000. Europe now produces more Ph.D.s in science and engineering each year than the United States does.
Together, we can do better, and we must if we want to remain a strong global economic leader. College affordability is key to maintaining a strong economy for generations to come, as well as providing individual opportunity.
Earlier this year, a bipartisan effort found savings and efficiencies to be had in college financial aid. These funds should be reinvested by boosting Pell Grants and making college loans more accessible, rather than tax breaks for millionaires.
The administration and congressional Republicans have a choice to make: Provide more tax breaks for a chosen few, or more opportunity for all. Their decision will confirm whether or not they are acting in the best interests of both individual Americans and our collective economic future.
A stronger America starts at home, and one of the best investments we can make as a nation is in education. This is my commitment to you.
David Wu is a Democrat who represents Oregon’s First Congressional District, which includes western Washington County.
Wu's column taxes reality
As usual, there are many “misrepresentations” in Rep. Wu’s class-warfare hit piece.
First, the federal spending on education has almost doubled since 2001. The “cuts” Rep. Wu is talking about would only reduce the automatic rate of increase. In other words, we will still be spending more on education after Republicans are done with their “raid on student aid.”
Second, tax cuts for the 1% of the richest Americans (who already pay 25% of federal income taxes) Rep. Wu resents so much have fueled one of the most impressive economic recoveries we have witnessed in a long time.
That recovery in turn has resulted in the highest level of federal tax receipts in the US history. (The graph can be found on the Department of the Treasury site.)
Lastly, the US is failing to produce enough engineers to satisfy the needs of the growing economy not because high-school graduates do not go to college but because, when forced to take remedial math and science classes, they change their majors or drop out all together.
And there is only one culprit here: public schools are interested in equality of outcome rather than in creating opportunities to push our brightest and most talented students to their limits the way China and India do.
The result is a lot of mediocre students who consistently fail to meet the tough requirements of engineering departments in American colleges.
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