College Guide


August 13, 2012 3:33 PM Paul Ryan on College

By Daniel Luzer

Now that Mitt Romney has chosen Paul Ryan as his running mate it’s time, perhaps, to take a look at how Ryan views federal policy for higher education. Romney, having only served as a governor of a state several years ago, hasn’t said much about college.

Back in October I pointed out that the Ryan plan for Pell grants, which specified reducing the benefits available because he believed the program was “unsustainable,” essentially amounted to just forcing students to take out more loans for college.

Michael Stratford over at the Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look at some more Ryan higher education plans. As he explains:

Among the largest higher-education items targeted for cuts in Mr. Ryan’s budget proposals are the federal student-aid programs. He has called for ending the in-school interest subsidy on undergraduate Stafford loans and tightening the eligibility requirements for the Pell Grant program. He would completely cut off Pell eligibility for students attending college less than half-time.
Of more concern to student-aid advocates… is the philosophy that underlies some of Mr. Ryan’s proposed cuts. Mr. Ryan has been vocal in saying he thinks that increasing federal student aid enables institutions to continue to raise tuition.

This is in line with Ryan’s general enthusiasm for financial austerity. As far as higher education spending should work, however, Ryan (who has no experience in state government) is apparently in favor of greater state spending. Stratford:

Mr. Ryan has said he believes investments in education are best made at the state level. On his Web site, he writes, “Rather than relying on the federal government to ensure that students are given the capability to fulfill their potential, education ought to be governed by state and local boards more ably qualified to determine student need.”
“Being a fiscal conservative isn’t necessarily anti-education,” [Director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education Noel] Radomski said, but Mr. Ryan’s leave-it-to-the-states approach is a matter of concern for advocates of public higher education as states continue to disinvest in higher education.

There is one area where Ryan displays no interest in reducing federal government subsidies for higher education: for-profit colleges.

According to Stratford’s article Ryan joined House Republicans last year to oppose the Education Department’s “gainful employment” regulations, which specify that in order to continue to receive federal funding America’s vocational schools must make sure that at least 35 percent of former students are paying down their loans, former students must not have to pay more than 30 percent of their discretionary income on loan payments, and former students must not spend more than 12 percent of their total income on loan payments. The day after Romney announced his running mate the two men held a campaign event at a for-profit college. Federal student aid accounts for 90 percent of the revenue many for-profit colleges enjoy.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • electedface on August 14, 2012 4:12 PM:

    Student debt is stunting the growth of the economy. Student loans have increased by 275% over past decade. As the next generation graduates from college, they are plagued by insurmountable debt that places demands on their income, limiting their ability to spend their earnings in ways that stimulate the economy.

  • Jason Paskowitz on August 31, 2012 12:07 AM:

    The housing market will not recover until the $1 Trillion debt anvil is removed from the middle class.

  • Ame on August 31, 2012 5:26 AM:

    Education is a human right. NO one should play around with this human right.
    Local Governments should guarantee education to every member of the community, from primary to at least the first 4 years of college. Community colleges should provide courses to develop skills directed towards economic and ecologically friendly livelihood.
    Provisions should be arranged such that the collective wealth of humanity can guarantee this educational right. None should profit from guaranteeing this human right.

  • lynn on August 31, 2012 10:09 AM:

    The problem with the market is the lack of high earning jobs for college graduates. We are truly in a state of depression, but recession (like the politicians want to make you believe.) The government needs to find ways to stimulate spending among everyone. The problem is only going to get worse if there is no resolution to our sluggish economy. Without the lack of hiring and the problem compounded by budget cuts and freezes within school systems, many educated individuals are finding that they cannot spend money because they are not bringing in money from most of the jobs out on the market that is only earning minimum wage and for part time work. The worst thing businesses can do is to lay off workers. I can't think of one market no impacted by the recession. This is what our presidential runnning mates need to understand: recovery with economic stability.

  • Anonymous on September 09, 2012 12:07 PM:

    Here is a thought, and I would love feedback on this as it randomly came to me while I was reading about to fall asleep. You know how there are organizations that will educate you about God, Jesus and the Bible basically for free? But if someone wants to learn about anything useful in life such as science, technology or medicine then they either have to have the money themselves, rich parents willing to pay their way, earn scholarships or get student loans just to be able to attend a higher learning institution....that to me just does not seem right. I write this as a person who is relying on federal student loans to even attend school now, and if something drastic is done to those programs that limits my loan amount, I will have to drop out of school.