Federal Student Aid: Our Disaster in Microcosm

I should have posted this yesterday, but was busy with other things, including a terrific discussion about higher education featuring Charles Murray, author of the new book Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality, and St. John’s College, Annapolis, President Christopher Nelson. (The video should be up shortly if you’re looking for a little enlightenment.)

Anyway, there was, as many in the edublogosphere have been lamenting, almost no mention of education in Tuesday night’s debate. There were, however, quick, periodic mentions from Senator Obama of the need to make college affordable, something he plans to do by throwing yet more cash into already overflowing federal student aid streams. Unfortunately, no education commentators looking to latch onto our current economic woes and be heard have made this clear connection (probably because they don’t want to): Federal student aid is our current, government-driven, economic disaster in microcosm. Washington has been buying middle-class votes with ever-greater loads of student aid for decades, but rather than making college more affordable it has wasted hundreds-of-billions of taxpayer dollars, driven tuition higher and higher into the stratosphere, and made colleges richer and fatter. It’s a perfect example of how government “help”–such as Fannie and Freddie buying sub-prime loans like they were plastics–only truly helps politicians get re-elected, special interests wealthier, and everyone else stuck with huge bills.