Article Breakdown: Blaming Reagan

Article Breakdown For: My students pay too much for college. Blame Reagan.

Article’s Main Point

“State support for higher education has steadily declined since Reagan” …therefore it’s Reagan’s fault? (implied by the title)

It’s interesting the way the writer worded  his argument in the article, because it does not actually reflect the title of the piece. I think that it might be fair (and true) to simply say that “State support for higher education has steadily declined since Reagan” but it’s harder to prove that he alone is to blame.

My Questions

  • Is it fair to directly attribute this shift in attitude to Reagan? Could it have been the result of some other changes happening politically or in the educational institutions? For example, what about the movement of manufacturing overseas that has given us a service-driven economy?
  • Many other consumer goods have gotten cheaper since the 80’s. Why has higher education gotten so expensive?
  • What specific ways do you have in mind to reverse the trend?
  • If we were to begin giving out federal aid again, how would that affect the tuition costs? Would they get higher, lower, or stay the same? How would it affect demand for higher education? What are we really incentivising?
  • Why does the taxpayer owe people a higher education?
  • Why should we incentivise more kids to go to college? Perhaps we should be incentivising businesses to do more on-site training, so that young adults get more precise training for the job that they will be doing.

Statements Made in the Article

  • Student debt has risen nationally.
  • Sharpest rise occurred at public universities with the highest-paid presidents.
    • 2006 – 2012, “average student debt of graduates in the top 25 public universities with the highest executive pay increased 5 percentage points more or 13 percent faster than the national average,”
    • Ohio State University’s, student loan debt rose 23 percent faster than the national average between 2010 and 2012.
    • Ohioans opposed tax increases in higher education in the 1990s and early 2000s, while voting to spend tax money to build four sports stadiums.
  • 1970s, states paid 65 percent of college costs.
  • Student aid crisis (budget cuts) has its roots in the 1980s.
  • 1981, Reagan administration, pushed through Congress tax- and budget-cutting measures.
  • Spending on higher education was slashed by some 25 percent between 1980 and 1985.
  • Cuts totaled $594 million in student assistance and $338 million in Pell grants.
  • Why they did it:
    • Cutting aid would reduce the deficit.
    • Less money meant less federal intrusion in individuals’ lives.
    • Government support of students upset the natural order of the family, supplanting parents and their obligation to provide.
    • Reagan administration Education Secretary Terrel Bell: “students needing aid were part of the problem.”
    • voters were far more likely to punish lawmakers for raising taxes.
    • Reagan administration OMB Director David Stockman: students were “tax eaters … [and] a drain and drag on the American economy.” Student aid “isn’t a proper obligation of the taxpayer”.
  • Eligibility changes: low-cost, low-interest, federal loans limited to families with household incomes of less than $32,000, regardless of family size.
  • All states but one (North Dakota) are spending less per student today than before the Great Recession.
  • 2013, states paid 30 percent of college costs.

Image Source: Flickr

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