Tuesday, September 1, 2015

‘Frozen’ Pell Grants are a Small Step in the Right Direction

There’s nothing like being the fireman who rushes to fight a fire that he himself started.

That fireman is who the advocates of ever more federal financial aid to college students are trying to be. In a March 2015 New Jersey Star-Ledger guest editorial, lawyer, board member of America Needs You - New Jersey, and former economics policy analyst Matt Platkin lambasted congress for reining in federal Pell grants as part of a 10-year effort to cut the federal budget.

Platkin’s article is titled In freezing cap on Pell Grants, Congress turning back on students as cost of education keeps rising. In my comments, I replied to several points raised by Platkin:

“Congress could have chosen to focus on important issues, such as . . . the seemingly unrestrained growth in tuition that far outpaces inflation.”

Government funding of college is the culprit driving up college costs, so it’s disingenuous to demand that government spend more money on college financial aid because of rising college costs. It's like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

“. . . what message does this send to our students? It suggests that Congress views them only as political bargaining chips.”

College students became a political bargaining chip when Congress got involved in college loans and financial aid.

“Congress is telling those applicants . . . that their educational prospects should be dictated not by effort or ability but by financial means.”

Any common thief could make the same argument. But the financial means should be moral, and seizing other people’s money against their will is not moral. It’s easy for do-gooders to demand Congress force other people to pay for their schemes. Why doesn’t America Needs You - New Jersey raise voluntary contributions, instead of demanding Congress pick other people’s pockets? It’s laughable to speak of “the value of hard work and financial responsibility,” and then demand more government handouts involuntarily paid for by hardworking American taxpayers.

“Last week, Congress declared a war on students.”

In fact, Congress declared war on American taxpayers when it started the welfare state, including seizing their money to pay for other people’s college education. The GOP is not proposing to abolish the Pell program, as it should. But the Pell “cap freeze” is at least a step in the right direction. It’s about time Congress gave some consideration to productive Americans who pay the bill for the do-gooders. The GOP budget overall seeks to restrain the growth in federal spending and balance the budget over time, at least in theory. Every dollar not spent by Congress is another dollar left in the hands of the people who earned it, and that is laudable.

Related Reading:

Why Must Colleges be Primary Schools?

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