Thursday, January 18, 2007

Something Bad, Something Good

By Bryan O’Keefe

Well, as expected, the House voted last night to slash interest rates on student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. The final vote itself was fairly overwhelmingly in favor, though one must suspect that many Republicans voted for the bill not because they agreed with it, but rather because they feared the electoral consequences of being on record against the bill. (Our friends over at INSIDE HIGHER ED have all of the juicy details of the debate, for those people who have a life and didn't watch it on C-SPAN)

The people who actually believed in the bill, of course, are the Democrats. They campaigned on it and are now following through on their promises. As our loyal readers know, CCAP was not particularly excited with this proposal and a post yesterday from Dr. Vedder explained why this interest rate cut will probably not make college more affordable or accessible.

That all being said, CCAP also likes to give politicians credit where credit is due. And the Democrats, despite the student interest rate debacle, deserve praise for recently promising to stop doling out congressional earmarks to academia. The explosion of these earmarks was a travesty in the last Congress and compelled colleges and universities to pay lobbyists insanely high fees just so they could possibly capture some earmark dollars. The whole process perverted the normal government-academic grant system, which usually entails putting together a scientifically-sound proposal, competitively working against other colleges, being judged on your academic merits, etc. But with earmarks, your actual academic credentials didn’t matter – the key to bringing home the dough was finding a lobbyist with the right connections.

It’s a good thing that the Democrats are ending this practice. And if the Republicans manage to ever get back into power again, they should follow the lead of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who has aggressively opposed academic earmarks and actually started an investigation into the matter.

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