What’s Going On

– The Engingeering Student Council at Columbia has advanced a measure to permit student petitions on issues. The Not only are Barack Obama and John McCain for the step, the Columbia Spectator is as well. Past polls revealed majority student support. Opposed? The faculty, the administration, and, in past forms, student government.

– Richard Vedder blogs about a great idea – of a “progressive federal voucher in lieu of ALL current federal forms of financial aid.”

The idea is this. Pool all the federal student aid funds including loan subsidies together, and you have tens of billions in outlays. I would include tax credits in the calculation. Let us say the sum is $50 billion, about one-third of which is current Pell Grant outlays. Make the Pell Grant an explicit scholarship (the word voucher is verboten on political grounds, I guess) payable to the student, with the amount totally independent of the school chosen by the student (obviously, the money is usable only at an accredited school).

Give more of these awards than currently receive Pell Grants, maybe 8-10 million, with a peak award of, say, $5,000 or even more. Give no awards, however, to upper income students, who should be paying for their own education. Scale the remainder of the awards by adjusted gross income, maybe with some allowance for family size and number of kids in college –period. Awards could run between say $1000 and $6000. End the FAFSA form –use an income tax form checkoff allowing the administrator of the student awards access to IRS and, possibly, Social Security records. Give no money to richer kids. Put some performance standards in –the awards are good only for four years, for example. A bonus is given for being in the top one-fourth of your class (don’t use a grade point average –that encourages grade inflation).

Read on for why colleges and the financial aid industry will fight such a plan. It’ll sound even better.

Anthony Paletta

Anthony Paletta is a freelance writer.

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