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Joe Biden Can’t Save Higher Ed, but Real Education Can

Posted on Sunday, August 28, 2022
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by David P. Deavel
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AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel

Biden

The time-lag between Democrat politicians and the “mainstream” media complex celebrating (or pretending to celebrate) any move by the Biden Administration and buyer’s remorse for said move is getting shorter and shorter. Joe Biden’s declaration of a program of college student loan cancellation, forbearance, and income-driven repayment raised hosannas for about ten minutes before doubts, denials, and recriminations began. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.

Democrats are largely ignoring the most important question—that of the legality of this forgiveness. After all, they profess belief in a “living Constitution” whose meaning can “grow,” though only in ways that increase Democratic power. They are, however, noticing the retail political problem.

Most everybody realizes that the giveaway is a political ploy to pay off the Dem base, which is more and more composed of white college and graduate degree holders. That this is a problem has not been unnoticed by other politicians. NBC reported that Democrats in tough swing-state races are running away from the move. No wonder, given the reality that the majority of Americans don’t have college degrees. Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, in a tough race to replace Republican Senator Rob Portman, is quoted as observing that “waiving debt for those already on a trajectory to financial security sends the wrong message to the millions of Ohioans without a degree working just as hard to make ends meet.”

Never mind the political optics, however. How this thing will even work makes it look like the financial and administrative equivalent of the Administration’s disastrous August 2021 pull-out from Afghanistan (the effects of which are still being felt not only by Americans and American allies still trapped there, but by those who escaped). Axios reported that the Biden Administration doesn’t seem to have a plan for how this will work and has entrusted it to the Department of Education, which also doesn’t know how it will work or how much it will cost.

Regarding the last question of cost, the Penn-Wharton Budget Analysis has looked at the question and pegged the final expenditure at a minimum of over $600 billion and, more realistically, probably over $1 trillion over a ten-year window. In other words, this is an Obamacare-sized fiscal boondoggle with all the lawlessness, bad execution, distorted incentives, political divisiveness, and stupidity involved.

Oh, yeah, and it will have some effect on inflation. According to Obama’s chief economist Jason Furman, who obviously hadn’t read the Penn-Wharton study, “Pouring roughly half trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless.”

Never, to paraphrase a previous President who worked with the current one, underestimate Joe’s ability to screw things up.

But, as an academic myself, let me ask the all-important question: is it good for the professors?

Well, it might well help some professors who are still paying off loans, but—and this is the catch for anybody who gets these benefits—at least thirteen states may tax forgiven loans as income. But will it help the professors as professors by incentivizing attendance at universities? That is very unlikely.

Enrollment at colleges and universities has been dropping like a stone since at least 2010. Parents and students are increasingly and logically dubious about the value of four-year degrees for careers, not to mention the costs, which continue to soar every year. After two years of draconian COVID restrictions, vaccine mandates, and attempts to make students pay the same fees for online classes, students are ditching the university system even quicker. From fall 2019 to fall 2021, American higher education lost over 1 million undergraduates. According to Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, “That’s about a six and a half percent decline, which is the largest two-year drop that we’ve ever seen, at least in the last 50 years in the US for undergraduates. It’s about twice as steep a decline as the previous largest.” By spring 2022, the Center was reporting another 4.1% decline in student population.

It’s not getting better this fall. A report from Lending Tree’s Quote Wizard found that of this year’s potential students:

  • 29% of potential students canceled all classes because of COVID-19
  • 36% of students are now taking classes in a different format (online)
  • 9% of students changed schools because of COVID

That’s no surprise. While the rest of the country has gotten largely back to normal, too much of higher ed is still mired in 2020 ideas about COVID. Georgetown University, showing a spectacularly bad read of the room, has instituted a mask mandate this fall for students in classes, labs, and on school transportation vehicles.

Most important to this equation, however, is that modern higher education, swinging wildly between not-following-the-science diktats and a return to modern segregation in the form of separate—but no doubt equal—spaces for students of different races and colors, just isn’t very good at, well, education.

As American higher education rushes on toward the 2026 demographic cliff (births plummeted in the country in 2008 and have never recovered), what is becoming clearer is that institutions that do not go the way of the mainstream are actually thriving. It is no surprise that these institutions are mostly anchored in a religious and political vision that is distinctively non-woke.

The big winners are places such as Hillsdale College in Michigan, which this year boasted their second largest freshman class ever. More impressive than the final numbers are the other statistics. The new class represented only 20% of the total applications and averaged a 32 on the ACT and a 3.94 grade-point average. Hillsdale is one of the few schools in the country that refuses all federal student aid—including student loans. No Hillsdale alums will have their loans forgiven because they didn’t pay into that system.

Even among schools that do take loans, there are many that don’t drink the Kool Aid. My own institution, the University of St. Thomas in Houston, had its largest ever incoming class—an improvement on last year’s record-setting year by more than 100 students. So, too, the school my son attends, the University of Dallas. Like Hillsdale, they only had their second-largest class ever this fall (last year being the largest), but space is an issue that has to be faced by many of these universities. And Cedarville University in Ohio recorded their thirteenth consecutive year of record enrollment.

I could go on, but this brief survey tells you all you need to know. Hillsdale and Cedarville are serious institutions rooted in the Protestant tradition (though Hillsdale has a solid minority of great scholars and administrators in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions). St. Thomas-Houston and University of Dallas are solidly Catholic (though also with Protestant and Orthodox faculty). Each takes Christian faith and liberal arts seriously, with a serious core curriculum that is not merely a set of requirements to take a class in this department and a class in that one. Instead, there is a well-thought-out series of classes introducing students to the Christian and Western Tradition through math, hard sciences, languages, literature, history, philosophy, and theology.

In an academic world in which this kind of education has been labeled as useless or even racist, these schools are showing how wrong that is. George Weigel, whose children went to the University of Dallas (or UD, as it is known), wrote last fall about the perennial modern question about whether such traditional educations lead to job success. He selected a few startling statistics, among which was this one: “In 2019, UD grads had an 84 percent medical school acceptance rate: twice the national average, 21 percent higher than Cornell in 2016, higher than Duke in 2017 or Dartmouth in 2020, and higher than Penn, Johns Hopkins, and USC in recent years.” In a recent interview, UD president Jonathan Sanford added to that picture: “Consistently, within six months of graduation, well over 95% of our alumni are either employed or are in graduate school. In fact, in our most recent ‘first destination’ survey of our 2021 graduates, over 99% had jobs or were pursuing advanced education.” Like Dallas, Cedarville reports that its rate for 2021 grads is 98.4% and Hillsdale cites a figure of 98%.

What about racism? Well, I don’t have the numbers handy for this year’s students, but in last year’s record-breaking class at University of St. Thomas in Houston, black students made up nearly 10 percent, Asian and Pacific Islanders nearly 11 percent, and Hispanic/Latinos nearly 64%. The reality is that all Americans desire great education. Wokeness and the soft bigotry of low expectations is not seen by anybody as great education.

The country is already ruing the Biden Administration’s latest disastrous policy supposedly meant to bolster higher education. It will not save much of higher education, which is rightly floating toward oblivion. What will save higher education are those schools like Hillsdale, University of Dallas, Cedarville, and University of St. Thomas-Houston that are saving the heart of higher education by providing a real view of the world that takes into account faith and reason. That’s a good in and of itself. But it also leads to success after college.

David P. Deavel is Associate Professor of Theology in Houston, Texas, and a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Follow him on Gettr @davidpdeavel.

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JD
JD
1 year ago

AMEN

Ann Grace
Ann Grace
1 year ago

I wish every American would read this article. It’s an eye opener to the upper education system.

Rl
Rl
1 year ago

Another devious ploy to redistribute weath to key people that will keep the Socialist agenda rolling.

Chas
Chas
1 year ago

Biden,The Election Infection

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 year ago

ILLEGAL and UNCONSTITUTIONAL executive order signed by DICTATOR Beijing biden on Student Loan Debt forgiveness.
This was nothing but a BRIBE to get Votes.
Under the U.S. Constitution
DICTATOR Beijing biden CANNOT take Money from Treasury to PAY OFF student debt. READ U.S. CONSTITUTION.
This makes OVER 570 ILLEGAL and UNCONSTITUTIONAL executive orders by DICTATOR Beijing biden.
DICTATOR Beijing biden continues to commit TREASON and ESPIONAGE but the FBI RAIDS President Trump’s home ILLEGALLY and UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
The ONLY way to get Education back to what it’s supposed to be is to ABOLISH the Department of DUHmacation and for parents to make sure their children are NOT being BRAINWASHED and INDOCTRINATED to FASCIST liberals thinking of COMMUNISM and Hating AMERICA.
FIRE ALL WOKE LOSER school teacher’s and university/college professors and instructors.
DON’T PAY ANY TAXES that supports WOKE BRAINDEAD thinking.
DON’T attend any WOKE LOSERS university or college. Cause you WON’T get a REAL education but you WILL be in DEBT for DECADES and the ONLY thing you will learn is what color you are and believe everything the FASCIST liberals tell you regardless of TRUTH since they ONLY tell one side of the story, theirs.
That’s NOT Education. That’s INDOCTRINATION.

Joel Keller
Joel Keller
1 year ago

Great article!

Rik
Rik
1 year ago

Jackass Joe SHOULD EXPECT that he will NEED TO SAVE his own butt as HE GOES DOWN IN AMERICAN HISTORY as THE WORST PRESIDENT EVER!!!

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

50 years ago when students occupied dean’s office it should have been parents demanding every Timothy Leary be removed and demanding of the brats to attend classes rather than protest an smoke dope

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 year ago

Compete
Boost Trade schools
Reuse closed schools for Local area needs
Compare & contrast

pete
pete
1 year ago

college needs to be other than the exclusive country club for libs it has become.

Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis
1 year ago

The Biden Administration has been asked but not answered how college loan forgiveness will be paid for.

The answer is 87,000-new, armed IRS agents who will audit and steal from hardworking, blue-collar workers!

HocasPocas
HocasPocas
1 year ago

Very good article Mr. Deavel. I too went to a good college/university. St Francis University in Loretto, PA.

Donald Christian
Donald Christian
1 year ago

Defund public ed, nea(allunions), institute vouchers, open/certify more private and Christian schools.

Silhouette of the President of the United States of America Donald Trump while attending a conference
1960s and 2020s; history repeats itself
Helena, Montana / November 3, 2020: Woman election official directing voter where to park and vote, man in vehicle holding ballot, voting from car outside polling station, poll worker
Red - amac action update

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