Republican Party Platform Calls For End Of Federal Student Loans, Support For For-Profit Colleges

GOP Platform Calls To End Support For Low-Income Students
Delegates gather in the Tampa Bay Times Forum during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Delegates gather in the Tampa Bay Times Forum during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Republican Party Platform approved this week in Tampa calls for an end to the federal direct student loan program and would instead give government money to banks to issue private student loans, undoing some of the student loan reforms made by the Obama administration.

"The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans; however, it should serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector as they offer loans to students," the platform reads. "Private sector participation in student financing should be welcomed."

Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has already hinted he won't expand direct federal student aid, and the new GOP platform aims at ending what Republicans have called a "government takeover" of the student loan industry. (Fact-checkers have disputed this claim.)

The federal government currently offers Pell Grants to low-income students with award amounts based on variables like income, family size and how many family members are enrolled in college. It also offers direct student loans, which also vary in size according to family income.

Under the older Federal Family Education Loan Program (FEEL), the federal government gave money to banks to lend out to students, essentially eliminating risk for private lenders.

Financial institutions like Wells Fargo, Sallie Mae and Discover still issue private student loans. But in a student loan reform package attached to the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration cut subsidies for banks that issue student loans through FEEL, instead channeling that money into funding Pell Grants and direct government loans. The Congressional Budget Office projected the move would save nearly $60 billion, with $39 billion of that going to lower-cost federal student aid programs.

The Republican platform would essentially have the government return to the private bank-as-student loan middleman system.

Republicans also offered some comfort to for-profit colleges, which have been under intense scrutiny by the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Obama administration.

"New systems of learning are needed to compete with traditional four-year colleges: expanded community colleges and technical institutions, private training schools, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector," the GOP platform reads.

Romney, too, has praised for-profit colleges, and The New York Times notes one of the republican candidate's major donors is Bill Heavener, Full Sail University's chief executive and a co-chair of Romney's state fundraising team in Florida.

And where the GOP praised for-profit colleges, Republicans adopted harsh language accusing public colleges and universities of being "zones of intellectual intolerance favoring the Left."

"Ideological bias is deeply entrenched within the current university system," the platform reads. "Whatever the solution in private institutions may be, in State institutions the trustees have a responsibility to the public to ensure that their enormous investment is not abused for political indoctrination."

Republicans have griped about university professors' liberalism since the days of Richard Nixon -- but the inclusion of such rhetoric in the party platform echoes complaints that emerged during the GOP presidential primary contest from former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Santorum claimed his own college grades were docked because of his conservative views and asserted colleges were liberal "indoctrination mills."

As for K-12 education, the Republican Party Platform calls for support of private charter schools, single-sex classes and abstinence-only education.

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