Republicans Continue Fight Against College Students
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 07:27:26 AM EST
Roundly rejected by American voters on November 7, Congressional Republicans appear intent on maintaining their close ties with some of the few segments of our society that remain allied to them. As Janet Hook reports in the Los Angeles Times, one such group is the lending industry -- and those lending to college students at unnecessarily high rates, in particular.
Lenders are facing new political exposure because for years they have invested much more heavily in building relationships with Republicans than they did with Democrats:
* Almost 80% of the money given to House education committee members by advocates for the student loan industry and for-profit colleges went to Republicans in the 2003-04 campaign cycle, according to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education. More than half of the money went to two Republicans: then-Chairman John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), chairman of the higher-education subcommittee.
* In the 2005-06 election cycle, the largest single corporate source of donations to the National Republican Congressional Committee was a student loan company, Nelnet, whose employees and political action committee gave $153,000. Of Nelnet's PAC contributions, 71% went to GOP candidates and 29% to Democrats, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors fundraising.
* Employees of Sallie Mae, a company that finances student loans, gave more than any other entity to Boehner's political action committee, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics early this year. The center calculates that during the 2005-06 election cycle, 62% of Sallie Mae's PAC contributions went to Republican candidates, 38% to Democrats.
Judging by the Hooks article, it seems that the Republicans will continue to go to bat for the lending industry during the 110th Congress, perhaps even obstructing legislation to bring down the price of college by lowering interest rates on loans for college education. But Republicans have not only gone to the mat for these lenders -- who, as Hooks notes, are heavily subsidized by the federal government but "take little risk" because the "federal government also guarantees student loans against default." They have also actively fought against college students in the past. As I have noted before, the Bush administration and the Republican Congress raised taxes on teenagers saving money for college to the tune of $2.2 billion earlier this year. They also made significant cuts programs that make college more accessible to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it, most notably slashing Pell grants, both in their number and the amount of resources they provide to individual students.
With actions like these directly fighting against the interests of younger Americans, it's not an overstatement to say that the Republicans run the risk of losing that age cohort forever. Taking a look at the exit polling from earlier this month, younger voters (those under the age of 30) voted Democratic at a higher rate than any other age group, backing the Democrats over the Republicans by a 60 percent to 38 percent margin. If that number holds -- and, again, there's reason to believe it might -- Republicans are going to have a heck of a time dealing with this generation, which doesn't trust and will not vote for the GOP, over the next several decades.