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What do you think: Does funding for federal student aid belong in the Stimulus Bill?

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February 2, 2009 by Mara Strom

President Obama’s Stimulus Package has been getting some flack lately for being short on stimulating the economy.

I first heard the debt-free living guru Dave Ramsey ranting about the President’s Stimulus Plan on his radio show last week. He called out items like the $75 million allocation for an anti-smoking initiative and increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ramsey also criticized the earmarking of funds for college financial aid. (I reported on what the President’s stimulus plan will do for students two weeks ago… The highlights include increasing the HOPE scholarship tax credit, increasing funding for the Pell Grant, and increasing the Stafford loan limit.)

It’s not that Ramsey is against federal financial aid for students (well, I don’t know, actually … He might be — but that wasn’t his point here). It’s that he claims that increasing funding for student aid has nothing to do with stimulating the economy.

Senate Republicans are beating the same drum. According to an article from the Associated Press, the President’s plan will spend tens of billions of dollars on “causes that have little to do with jolting the country out of recession.” The third item in the article’s list of non-stimulating examples?

$15 billion for college scholarships — worthy, perhaps, but not likely to put many Americans back to work quickly

I’m torn. Politics aside, it’s pretty clear to me that financial aid — especially the student loan industry — is in desperate need of reforming. It’s also clear to me that more and more Americans can’t afford a four-year college degree at their in-state school, let alone at an out-of-state public school or a private institution. And it’s clear to me that without educated workers, our economy won’t ever get the kind of long-term boost it needs to be truly stimulated.

On the other hand, I see the point that long-term investments aren’t exactly synonymous with the “get us out of this mess and now!” message being sounded on Capitol Hill.

Since I’m a long-term thinker, I’m okay with investing in programs like federal financial aid. I see the greater good. I also see the greater good in things like training workers for the green economy. No, they won’t get a new job and be able to start spending their new income on our failing consumer economy tomorrow. But they will have a job in the future, in an industry that will fuel our economy well beyond immediate stop-gap measures. I see investitures in students in much the same positive light.

That’s what I think. But the title of this post is not “What do I think?”. It’s “What do you think?” So, I ask you: What do you think? Should federal student aid be a part of the Stimulus Package? Sound off in our comments section!

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