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GOP hopefuls discuss economy, student debt

By Haley Glatthorn, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 10, 2011

Jesse Benton, Paul’s national campaign manager who spoke with The Michigan Daily after the debate, said Paul’s plan does not entail the immediate removal of federal student loans, but rather a gradual shift away from dependency on the program so government spending is minimized and the quality of American education is maintained.

“The truth is that the federal student loan program has completely messed up our higher education system,” Benton said. “Look at the exploding cost and look at the diminishing quality. Look at the job market we’re handing our students when they get out and work.”

In an interview with the Daily after the debate, Santorum said the increasing amount of federal subsidies provided to students greatly attributes to the skyrocketing cost of higher education. He added that in many regards, the costs associated with attending college, like the price of textbooks, is a “scam.” Ultimately, the current state of higher education is hindering the ability for students to learn effectively, Santorum said.

“There’s all these artificial costs that are built into a college education, and they can get away with it because kids aren’t feeling the real impact of the cost if they’re borrowing all that money and we have to change that,” Santorum said.

LSA sophomore Russ Hayes, a member of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, was in attendance at the debate and said in an interview afterward that the general sense of accordance among the eight candidates was important to showcase the candidates’ desire — regardless of their background — to progress the nation.

“Overall that consensus, that universal agreement that something needed to change, that was important,” Hayes said.

Hayes said he agreed with comments made by Paul regarding divesting federal funds from higher education funding since it cultivates higher inflation rates and ultimately encumbers students’ abilities to find post-graduate employment.

“The argument is that when the federal government loans money to people it inflates the value of an education,” Hayes said. “Education is key. I think all sides agree that education is incredibly important, and what we need is people to get jobs with their degrees.”

Hayes added that despite the lauding of education among government officials, the reality is that students are failing to obtain jobs with their degrees, creating an issue similar to the housing bubble, as Paul mentioned, in which students invest a large amount of money that leads to little pay off, or even bankruptcy, in the long run.

“The problem is we have people coming out of college with degrees, and they’re just not working,” Hayes said. “The degree is not what it was 10 to 15 years ago. The problem that Ron Paul and a lot of the Republican candidates see is this bubble of education like what we saw with the housing bubble. The worry is if we keep pouring grants and pouring loans to students that won’t be able to afford it and will be in debt, that’s a worry.”

— Daily News Editor Bethany Biron contributed to this report.