We've been following this story in fits and starts since 2004 and I hate to say it but everything we predicted seems to have come true. Money is tighter, tuitions are higher, the shoe-string govt loan programs have been tailored to favor expensive private lenders, and the whole system now reeks of exclusion.
Because his father is out of work and his mother works only part time, Brennan has set an ambitious goal for himself: to raise the $25,000 he still needs for his freshman year at the University of California, Berkeley, by stitching together a quilt of merit scholarships.
“We need to spread our resources as far as possible,” he said the other night, over a family dinner of reheated eggplant parmigiana. “I guess I feel a little responsible.”
While Brennan’s situation, and the remedy he is pursuing, may sound extremely ambitious, guidance counselors across the country say they can recall no prior year in which so many applicants’ families have been squeezed by so many financial pressures.
Not only have families’ incomes been falling as their savings have dwindled, but also tuition has been rising — including proposed increases of nearly 10 percent next year throughout the University of California system. (Brennan would face bills nearly as high as Berkeley’s at the University of California campuses in Los Angeles and Davis, the only other colleges to accept him; Stanford, a private university that typically offers full scholarships to families with incomes under $60,000, rejected him. Berkeley offered him only $212 in scholarship money.)
While private colleges have vowed to protect financial aid in hard times, some of the most reliable independent scholarship programs have been reduced or discontinued this year — including some that lost parts of their endowments to Bernard L. Madoff’s vast Ponzi scheme — further raising the competition for those that remain.
Interest rates on student loans, including on popular federal programs like the unsubsidized Stafford (now nearly 7 percent) and Parent Plus (8.5 percent), are running several percentage points higher than the rates on secured loans, like home equity lines of credit.
“The difference of rates between secured and unsecured loans is higher than I have ever seen,” said Scott White, director of counseling services at Westfield High School in New Jersey. “This is one further impediment to access to post-secondary education for all but the well-to-do.”
This is the desired result, what conservatives have been working toward for 30 years. Why should higher education be open to everyone? Why should govt help poorer students go to college? What's in it for the society except higher taxes for the rich, money that should be staying in their pockets, not being wasted sending some lazy, unemployed construction workers' kid to a fancy college. That's none of the govt's business.
No. Now it isn't. UCLA - a public university, btw, like a fancy version of a community college - was born in the dream of affordable education for everyone but fuck that shit. Who needs it? Let them pay through the nose. Financial aid? You ever heard of "get a job"? Never mind that there aren't any because they've all been shipped to Quafuristan.
Along with our health care system, our college financial aid system is in the toilet, utterly dysfunctional and at the mercy of private for-high-profit student lenders and the tuitions that have been rising steeply since Federal aid to higher ed began being cut under Reagan and was all but eliminated under Bush and his Pub Congress. We now have the two-tiered system conservatives dreamed about: great schools at the top that only the monied, elite aristocracy can afford, and the junkpiles at the bottom for the rest of us. Soon the bottom pile will be gone because no one can afford even cut-rate education on no job or a job that pays so little you're using old newspapers for TP the last 2 weeks of the month.
But that doesn't matter. Here's what's important: a) Muffy DeRiche will never have to go to the same school as Jimmy Po'boy or be forced to rub elbows with commoners of any kind (teh trash, you know), and b) Jimmy may get so desperate Muffy's Dad will be able to hire him as a gardener and lawnboy for $3/hr instead of Juan, teh furriner.
Gotta keep yer eye on teh prize, yah know.