The Political Herd: Republican Columnist

Student aid reform has demanded careful attention over the past several years.  As a larger number of Americans are attending college each year, more private and federal student aid is necessary.  Likewise, the previous student aid system was broken.

Politicians across the country applauded the passage of Obama’s new student aid package, better known as Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA).  However, as several politicians, news commentators and experts pointed out, the new SAFRA may not be what the United States needed for student aid reform.

Before delving into logistics, the manner in which the bill was passed is repulsive.  SAFRA was tacked onto the healthcare bill.  Due to the intense focus on healthcare reform, SAFRA was not debated to its full extent.

It seems that this is the era of politics where massive reform policies are tacked onto even larger projects.  This new manner of passing controversial legislation is not change that we can believe in.

Now, after political polarization, let’s take a look at SAFRA’s logistics.  One of SAFRA’s advantages is that it makes attempts to enhance the U.S. educational system.

Under current law, schools are not mandated to publicize educator reviews.  SAFRA makes it mandatory for each school to publicize this.  In addition, it encourages the extended use of charter schools, which are primarily used in the absence of an acceptable school.

Its breakthroughs end there.  Although SAFRA mandates that schools publicize educator reviews, it makes no mandate for schools and federal officials to use them to evaluate our educational system.

In addition, although SAFRA advocates the roles of charter schools to facilitate a more reputable educational system, it rewards states for merely discussing the possibility of implementing more charter schools.

Every aspect in SAFRA focuses upon what can be done and what can be discussed.  It never encourages any party to accomplish any project.  However, that notion is not limited to only SAFRA, but instead encompasses Washington.

The main task SAFRA accomplishes is taking the “middle man” out of the college loan process.  Students receive loans directly from the bank.  Consequently, the elimination of the “middle man” also eliminates approximately 31,000 needed jobs.

Federal grants and loans are now allotted through stimulus cash, which is controlled by the U.S. Treasury Secretary.  Just recently the administration released guidelines for the treasury to follow.  In lieu of recent Washington politics, doubt remains whether those guidelines will be used.

Speaking specifically on federal grants, the system that will be used to reform Pell Grants does not appropriate substantial funds.  Already the Pell Grant does not increase based on tuition increases.  SAFRA would only allow the Pell Grant to decrease in value on a constant dollar basis.

Perhaps one of the largest mishaps is raising tuition costs.  There remain no provisions to address the issue of college affordability.  Under the new system, colleges themselves must provide more money for grants.  Undoubtedly all colleges will counter the mandate by raising their tuition even further.

Student aid reform is by no means an easy feat.  However, there is a difference between initiating reforms and talking about reforms.  SAFRA does the latter.  Instead of placing the burden on government budgeting to provide federal funding, let the regulated free market determine and allocate federal funds.  In this manner, federal aid will be automatically adjusted for changes in inflation and college industry expenditures.

A more prosperous and sophisticated future depends upon the education of the youth.  This is the predominant reason why reform is pertinent.  The Obama Administration and its SAFRA policies ought to reform the system through the capitalistic markets instead of talking about reform and allowing it to enter into the bureaucratic circus.