The debt deal was bound to have its fair share of pitfalls. The last minute wrangling between Democrats and Republicans was not a compromise, but rather a messy, last-ditch effort to avoid a disastrous default. Failing to reach any kind of appropriate or reasonable spending cuts, the country now has to deal with the mistakes of Congress, the biggest of which is the halting of the government’s subsidy on Direct Subsidized Federal Loans. Starting July 1, 2012, the loan program, which provides loans to graduate and professional students, will be phased out, leaving many students scrambling to finance their education. In order to ensure that the U.S. maintains a well-educated population, the Direct Subsidized Federal Loans must be reinstated.
The erasure of DSFLs will save the government a mere $21.6 billion over the next ten years, which is far less than one percent of the projected budget. Rather than coming to an agreement that involved raising revenue to help pay for progressive necessities like education subsidies, the government cut programs that are vital to the future and progression of the U.S. In an attempt to deflect negative feedback, Congress has stated that the majority of the money cut will be redirected to Pell Grants in order to maintain the Pell program, which provides financial support for low-income students. While these grants help families who can’t afford college, there is always going to be a need for DSFLs. Democrats may have had to adjust some essentials, like social security, due to their partner’s obstinate refusal to raise revenue, but there are less vital areas that could have been given the axe.
Many areas of the budget are worthy of an overhaul, but those that deserved the most scrutiny were skipped over by Congress. Education lacks the guile of heavily lobbied big business and industry, so rather than cutting corn subsidies and prison budgets, the government is putting the weight of legislative austerity on the backs of students. College students are going to have to pay more for education, which will create addional burdens, but for many it will simply deter them from enrolling in the first place. The University alone offered 3,992 DSFLs in the 2009-2010 academic year. Across the country there will be thousands of graduate students who have to pay the price for a poorly negotiated debt deal.
As the U.S. continues to struggle to produce a strongly educated populace, Congress needs to increase its emphasis on education in order to maintain a competitive workforce. As undergraduate education becomes increasingly commonplace both in the U.S. and abroad, graduate degrees have become increasingly standard and necessary. Promoting graduate-level education ensures the creation of more knowledgeable citizens in both the technical and liberal arts fields, which will help continue to push the country forward. For the betterment of the future, Congress must reinstate the DSFLs. The federal government should pay for this by raising revenue, but if it is desperately strapped for cash in this Republican forced austerity, educational loan programs should be last thing eliminated.