There can be little doubt that public education has transformed our society.  Perhaps most notable amongst the changes wrought is the rise of the vast middle class.    

Since the time following World War II, increased access to higher education has made further profound changes.  Federal loans have facilitated access to college and made available to many what was once enjoyed only by a select few.  Now, that access may become once again restricted.  The assault on the middle class is well under way.  
NYT Link

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 – Nearly one-third of all the savings in the final budget bill comes from student aid, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. …

Under the bill, college students would pay higher interest rates on loans.

The rate would be fixed at 6.8 percent for students and 8.5 percent for parents. The current rates, which vary with market conditions, are several percentage points below those levels.

There is disagreement upon the impact this legislation will have.  Senator Frist putting on his positive spin:

The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, said the new support for math and science education would increase America’s ability to compete in a global economy.

“China and India are generating scientists and engineers at a furious pace while America lags dangerously behind,” Mr. Frist said.

But Senator Kennedy views things a tad differently:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the math and science program would abandon the Pell grant principle that the neediest students should receive the most help.

“Under this proposal,” Mr. Kennedy said, “a single mother who can attend college only part time because she has to work 40 hours a week to put food on the table will not be eligible for a penny in new grant aid.”

But there can be little, if any, disagreement about the following disturbing provisions:

Even as it makes those cuts, Congress is creating a new program for students from low-income families who are eligible for Pell grants. The amount of aid will not be based on financial need. To qualify, students would have to be United States citizens, have completed “a rigorous secondary school program of study” and be taking courses full time at a “degree-granting institution of higher education.”

The student would have to maintain “a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.” Juniors and seniors will be eligible only if they have declared a major in the physical or life sciences, computer science, mathematics, technology, engineering or a foreign language deemed critical to national

So once again, national security rears its ugly head as justification for a program change.  Let paranoia ring.  I’m surprised that Osama and 9/11 weren’t mentioned directly.

And then there’s this:

…And the Education Department will work with the Internal Revenue Service to ferret out students and parents who underreport incomes on financial aid applications.

Those warm and fuzzy wingnuts.  

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