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Student Debt Burden Damages America.

Ronald Reagan understood that an educated population was more progressive than a Democratic one. He wanted to stop the exploding number of college-educated Americans due to the 1944 GI Bill (free tuition at the University of California) and the 1994 GI Bill.

Forty years later, student loans have crippled two generations. The debt burdens more than 44 million Americans. This $1.5 trillion economic drag has no other benefits than the banks that earn interest on it.

However, this is not enough to explain the extent of the damage student debt had caused to America since Reagan’s first year as California governor when he ended free tuition at the University of California and cut all state aid to the college system by 20%.

After destroying the opportunity for low-income Californians to receive an education in 1970s California, he took his antieducation program nationwide as president in 1980.

When asked why he had taken such a drastic approach to higher education, he replied that college students were too liberal and America should not subside intellectual curiosity.

College-educated people are more inclined to vote for Democrats. Joe Biden won 60 percent of college-educated voters in 2020. Republicans believe that colleges only produce protestors and progressives. Limbaugh used the term “the pointy-headed Liberals of Academics.”

Just four days before the Kent State Massacre on May 5, 1970, Governor Reagan called protestors of the Vietnam War across America “brats,” freaks, and cowardly fascists. He also said, “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with.” There can be no more appeasement!

Before Reagan’s presidency, 65 percent of college costs were paid by the states. Federal aid covered another 15 percent. Students had to pay the remaining 20%. These numbers are almost reversed today.

Kent State Massacre

Reagan pursued federal aid for students as soon as he was elected president. Devin Fergus, a Washington Post reporter, documented how student debt became widespread in the United States in the early 1980s.

Student aid was the most severe cut federal program. Between 1980 and 1985, spending on higher education fell by 25%. Students eligible for grant assistance in the first year had student loans to cover their second year.

It was a common mantra among conservatives, especially in Reagan’s cabinet. Let the children pay for their “liberal” educations.

Reagan’s Director of Budget and Management, David Stockman, spoke to a reporter in 1981

Reagan made tax cuts for the wealthy his priority. The GOP still holds this position to this day. Terrel Bell wrote that cutting education could “reduce government’s cost in his memoir.”

William Bennett, Reagan’s next Education Secretary, was more direct about how America should address the “problem” with uneducated people, especially if they are African American.

Bennett stated, “I know it’s true that you can reduce crime.” Bennett suggested that if that was your only purpose, “You could abort every baby of color in this country, and your crime rate will go down.”

These diverse perspectives were adopted as a common belief by the GOP. Reagan’s OMB Director David Stockman said to Congress that students are “tax-eaters… [and] drain and drag on America’s economy.” He also stated that student aid “isn’t a proper obligation of taxpayers.”

This is where, when, and how the current student debt crisis began in 1981.

America’s perspective was different before Reagan.

My father and Louise, my wife, served in World War II. Both went to college with the GI Bill. After two years, my dad quit and moved to a steel plant. Mom got pregnant with me, and Bob Gussy, Louise’s father, finished his law degree. He was also Assistant Attorney General of the State of Michigan.

University of Virginia

These two young people were among nearly 8 million who received free tuition under the 1944 GI Bill and a stipend that paid for a room, board, and books. The result, the 8 million educations that our government invested in, was impressive.

Edward Humes’ “Over Here: How The GI Bill Transformed America’s Dream” is the best book about this time and topic. Mary Paulsell summarized it for the Columbia Daily Tribune.

People who have received an education increase the competence and vitality in a country and make more money, which stimulates the economy. They earn more and pay more taxes. This helps to pay back the government for that education.

The nation spent $7 billion on the GI Bill’s education benefit in 1952 dollars. That educational benefit was responsible for an increase in economic output of $35.6 billion over 40 years. The additional taxes paid by higher-wage earners was $12.8 billion. **

The US government spent $7 billion to get a $48.4 trillion return or $7 per $1.

America’s educated workforce has allowed it to be a leader in innovation, R&D, and new business development for three generations. The transistor, the integrated circuit, and the internet were invented. We also created new miracle drugs, sent men on the moon, and changed science.

Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson were aware of this simple idea that Reagan and generations of Republicans have struggled to grasp: When you invest in your youth, you invest in your country.

Jefferson established the University of Virginia to be tuition-free. His proudest achievement was ranking higher than his being both president and vice president. *

 

Lincoln was proud of both the low- and free-tuition colleges he founded. The state of North Dakota has this to say:

Lincoln’s efforts led to the creation of 76 state colleges that are free or have very low tuition. They have educated millions of Americans, including my mom. She graduated from Michigan State University in the 1940s after she worked as a summer lifeguard and was able to pay her minimal tuition.

This is something that every other country in the developed world understands: student debt in western democracies is rare, if not non-existent. Many countries offer a stipend to help with monthly expenses, similar to the GI Bill back in the day.

At the moment, thousands of American students are studying in Germany, among other places, free of charge. Hundreds of thousands of American students are currently studying in free colleges in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

The Republican policies of cutting education funding and increasing student debt have cost US banks a lot. Still, they have also hampered the scientific progress of America and prevented two generations from owning businesses, starting families, or buying homes.

It is a devastating blow to the working class and the poor, both economically and socially. Minorities face a double challenge.

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