Wednesday, April 25, 2012


It should be no surprise that when I read the 24 April 2012 New York Times editorial "Subsidize Students, Not Tax Cuts," I was on the side of the editors who argue for keeping student loan interest down.  It should not be a surprise that I am on board with the article's assertion that "Nothing is more important to this country’s future than ensuring a good education for coming generations."  Nor should it be a surprise that I think it spot-on that the article points out how usual partisan politics are interfering with what might actually be helpful to those students.

None of these should be surprising--and I offer this for full disclosure--because I am among the population that would be affected by the changes to the system.  I have more than $50,000 in student loans still outstanding at the moment.  I am married to a person who has several dozen thousands of dollars out, as well, and my brother is not without debt despite having benefited from a four-year, full-ride scholarship.  My wife and I both teach college, and our students are largely if not entirely dependent upon federal student aid, so anything which discourages people from signing on for it impacts our ability to make a living.*

But, as I think I may have mentioned before, that I benefit from a thing does not make my saying it untrue.

Those people who do take out student loans and complete a course of study within a reasonable time (say, five years for undergraduate, three for masters, and the traditional seven for a terminal degree, although I am not wedded to those numbers) are doing what they can to make of themselves productive members of society.  Even those who, like myself, pursue studies in the less tangible fields of the arts and humanities do so; the study of science is neither moral nor immoral, being concerned (both usefully and correctly) with the "how," while such fields as mine are the "why."  Traditional wisdom asserts that such people have higher earning potential over their lifetimes, meaning more lifetime tax revenue for the state, and that they offer other benefits to the community--they are more likely to participate in the structures of governance and more likely to enrich their communities in other ways.

Much money is given to the care and maintenance of those outside the social contract and to those who violate it.  Should we not be at least as kind to those who actually do what they are supposed to do as we are to those who do not?

*Then again, maybe, since we both have "silly majors" outside the physical sciences and engineering (as commenter Holly puts things) and are among the over-paid parent-blackmailers of the academic elite (as per Connecticut Yankee**), perhaps we ought to expect it.  Or is that too heavily sarcastic?

**My work in my "silly major" tells me that "Connecticut Yankee" is an inauspicious name.  Sir Boss ends up miserable, alone, and ultimately of no effect, after all...

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