Editorial: Match education rhetoric with action

Facing an ballowing budget deficit, President Bush marked the Perkins Loan program for elimination in his 2006 budget. The elimination of this program would be especially detrimental to GW students, who already pay some of the highest tuition rates in the country and currently benefit from about $3.8 million in Perkins Loans. While the government contends that shifts in Department of Education budget priorities justify the cut, it is imperative the Bush administration make the availability and affordability of a college education a high priority.

Higher education in America is drastically under-funded. This country stakes its reputation on its ability to lead the world in math, science and technology research. American universities pride themselves on their ability to recruit and educate foreign citizens from across the globe. Without a policy to ensure students are able to afford a college education competing countries with a more comprehensive higher education plan will perhaps surpass the U.S. to lead the new era of innovation. The developing world, especially India and China, is producing a plethora of talented and capable scientists, engineers and mathematicians. These graduates now readily enter the job markets that were formerly monopolized by U.S. graduates – empowered by an info-tech revolution that has dramatically reduced their barrier to enter the global marketplace.

Politicians continually speak to the importance of higher education for maintaining a superior position in increasingly competitive international markets. As is often the case with elected officials, however, their words and actions do not correlate. In this case, the elimination of Perkins Loans without offering any alternative plan showcases the lack of vision in this crucial area. If higher education is truly a priority, we need a quantifiable higher education policy that creates affordable and quality opportunities for any American student seeking them.

While a lack of long-term vision for higher education policy will strain the entire system, more immediate issues surround the specific cuts that the administration is proposing. For GW students, these cuts guarantee an immediate and noticeable drop in the amount of financial aid available. There are 2,141 GW students currently receiving, Perkins Loans and it remains to be seen whether other governmental programs will offset this. With decreased financial aid available, GW will lose out on the diversity of ideas and people that affordable education provides.

Perkins Loans are not the complete solution to higher education’s myriad of problems. The lack of alternatives available to students seeking to finance ever increasing tuition rates, however, highlights the need for a broad and forward-thinking national policy on higher education. Any such plan should make higher education more affordable for current students while seeking to solve the longer-term problems of increasing tuition and declining quality in the face of new international competition.

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