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The Pope Center for Higher Education is out with a new article in which it laments the fact that student loan debt and loan defaults are both up in North Carolina.  This is obviously not an unimportant problem and so good for them for raising it.

As one might have suspected, however, the group’s conclusion as to why this is so and what ought to be done about it are mostly the usual market fundamentalist gibberish.

According to the Pope people, too many North Carolinians go to college — especially minority students who go to HBCU’s. The “solution,” therefore, is for all those kids who are trying to better themselves to cut it out. Better to get a job in retail or fast food and get on with life as a cog in the new post-industrial North Carolina.

Uh, earth to Pope people: Your article never mentions the word “tuition” except to say that it’s generally lower in HBCU’s.  In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been skyrocketing in the UNC system in recent years as conservatives have repeatedly slashed the state’s commitment to higher education.

A critical and obvious part of the solution to the problem of rising student debt — notwithstanding the Pope group’s denials — is to lower tuition and the other costs associated with higher education.  That an article would purport to discuss the problem of rising student debt without even paying lip service to the rapidly rising cost of attending college (or for that matter, the proliferation of predatory, for-profit colleges) is a testament to the amazingly powerful blinders with which the ideologues on Right Wing Avenue view the world and dispense their toxic policy prescriptions.

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Raleigh’s News & Observer ran a piece today implying that President Obama was somehow unfair to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx when he took her to task for the inane comments she recently made about student loans on, of all places, the Gordon Liddy Show. (As an aside, the mere fact that a member of Congress would go on the radio with that deranged old criminal ought to be grounds enough to criticize her).

Anyway, the N&O piece criticizes Obama for, it would seem, slightly misquoting Foxx. As it turns out, however, Obama was on the mark and the article gets its facts wrong.

Here is what Obama said: “One Republican congresswoman said just recently – I am going to quote this because I know you guys will think I’m making this up. She said she had ‘ very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt because there’s no reason for that.”’

Here is what Foxx really said (according to the Huffington Post):  “I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that.”

Wow! What a shocking omission! Obama left out the specific dollar amounts Foxx mentioned. Is that really deserving of a news story? And does it really then provide justification for the N&O to tack on the following paragraph about Foxx’s supposed Horatio Alger upbringing? Read More

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As Clayton Henkel reports above, President Obama was in the state today to press his case for renewing federal student loan laws that will keep interest rates at least semi-affordable for students. Meanwhile, in a rather remarkable bit of rhetorical gymnastics, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner tried to blame the Prez and Democrats for the fact that loan rates will go up without congressional action — action that Boehner and his buddies have been trying to stop!

Fortunately, Steve Benen puts Boehner in his place at the Maddow blog.

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Here (as highlighted by this story) are two additional good reasons not to cut public spending on higher education and thereby make it more unaffordable, as recommended by the right-wingers:

 #1 – Lower tuition (like we have here in North Carolina) means smaller loans, which clearly contributes to lower default rates. According to the story (citing the U.S. Department of Education), North Carolina’s student loan default rate of 5.9% is the lowest in the southeast and among the lowest in the country.

#2- For-profit vultures love to swoop in and suck up publicly-backed loans. Anything we can do to minimize this phenomenon — like keeping public education affordable and accessible is a good thing.