How far should the government go to alleviate student debt?

Decrying the "narrow profit motives" of lending companies, Anya Kamenetz declared in her Feb. 16 Opinion piece, "Adjust the balance of debt and education," that leaving higher education funding to the free market would exacerbate America's "student loan crisis." Ms. Kamenetz went on to pronounce that the crisis "demands a federal solution," a perplexing conclusion considering that the student loan system is a federal creation.

Far from being able to provide a solution to the college cost crisis, the federal government is a major part of the problem. By taking increasingly massive amounts of money from taxpayers and funneling it to students (inflation-adjusted federal student aid ballooned from $45 billion to $90 billion over just the past 10 years), the feds have pushed skyrocketing tuition costs ever higher. Colleges have been able to blithely inflate their prices because Washington has ensured that students could pay them.

To solve the problem, we must eliminate transfers from taxpayers to students and let the market go to work. Only when students and their families have to pay for college with their own resources will prices return to Earth and the crisis finally end.
Neal McCluskey
Washington Policy analyst, Cato Institute

Anya Kamenetz's Opinion piece on student debt reminds us that, given our society's current reliance on student loans to finance college access, the federal government also has an obligation to help students and families successfully manage the education debt they incur.

The US expends a considerable amount of energy and resources trying to ensure that everyone who can benefit has equal opportunity and access to higher education. Since the 1980s, when federal aid policy shifted away from using primarily grant programs, loans have become the predominant means of gaining access to college.

With loans, access is only part of the equation. True student success can only come when students complete the financing of their postsecondary education. Access ends when the loan is paid off. Most teenagers don't need help when they're signing a promissory note; it's the young adult, single parent, or graduate who chose a socially beneficial but low-paying career, who needs assistance as he or she struggles to make education loan payments on time.

We must give student borrowers economic literacy before, during, and after graduation so that they do not suffer the consequences of debt mismanagement. Access using debt financing, without the proper supports, is not true access. It is only access lent.
Paul Combe
President and CEO, American Student Assistance

US role in Iran's repression

Your Feb. 17 editorial, "Toppling Tehran isn't a tea party," on US efforts to encourage opposition to the present Iranian government among Iran's citizens states that "Iran's long history of authoritarian regimes has left a culture that may not be able to sustain such necessary tolerance." There is something unseemly about criticizing the history of such regimes without acknowledging the role of the US in creating them - most notoriously, the US role in the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadeq government in 1954 and subsequent support for the shah's rule. Perhaps if we were more forthright about our own responsibility for the past lack of democracy in Iran, it might contribute to a more constructive and successful US policy toward the present Iranian government.
Robert Naiman
Urbana, Ill.

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