Obama Hits the College Campaign Trail – Again
The President Sells Loans for College, But Fails to Produce Jobs for Graduates
Refreshed after his ten-day golfing vacation in Massachusetts, President Obama will hit the campaign trail later this week to continue his pitch for programs to help the middle class.
On Thursday and Friday, Obama will speak to college students in New York and Pennsylvania. It is his favorite audience – an adoring voting block dependent on federal dollars.
“At each stop, the President will discuss the importance of ensuring that every American has the opportunity to achieve a quality education by reducing costs and improving the value of higher education for middle-class students and their families,” the White House said in a statement.
The president’s campus tour comes as college students and their families have every reason to question the soaring costs of higher education and the bleak prospect of employment after graduation.
The Department of Education reported this week that 57 percent of undergraduates receive federal financial aid in loans and grants. The money goes to students and families of all income brackets, including students from families making more than $100,000 a year.
Pell Grants, provided to students based on need, have spiked, with about 41 percent of all students receiving the grant in the 2011-12 school year. Congress increased Pell Grant spending several times between 2007 and 2009 when the economy faltered and family incomes declined.
Student debt now stands at about $1 trillion. About two thirds of college students have an average loan debt of $26,600 when they graduate.
Students and their families are posing key questions about the payoff for the cost of higher education. Is a four-year college education for everyone? Who really benefits from federal financial aid, the colleges or the students? Why doesn’t a college education lead to employment opportunities?
Richard Vedder, the Ohio University economist and noted critic of federally supported higher education, has an answer.
“The cause is more fundamental than the cycles of the economy,” he says. “The country is turning out far more graduates than jobs exist in the areas traditionally reserved for them: the managerial, technical and professional occupations.”
Obama is unlikely to discuss the vicious cycle of federal loans, large debt, and high unemployment when he speaks to students later this week. He will encourage them to plow ahead towards graduation. Then he will tell them that they would be lost without the generosity of the federal government.
The president’s current economic tour cloaks his political aims in the garb of a national economic program to help the middle class. His real target is the 2014-midterm elections. Turnout will be crucial to his dream of capturing the House and maintaining control of the Senate. He’s counting on the college students.