The Obama Tuition Stimulus: Will Students Get A Sawbuck While The Constitution Get The Shaft?

The newly announced stimulus effort to help students has been denounced as an election year ploy that, as discussed in the below article, would result in less than $10 a month in savings for the average student. The question is whether such a use of executive power is constitutional given the conflict with prior legislation.

The student loan program is part of what President Obama calls the “We Can’t Wait” stimulus effort. As the chart below shows, tuition costs are soaring while expendable income is flat or falling for students. The result is that education is becoming out of reach for many students — a danger that has long-term consequences for the country in developing the base of a well-educated and trained workforce.

Student loans have grown by 511% since 1999 while disposable income has grown by just 73%.

The new initiative would limit the amount of student loan payments to 10% of a graduate’s income rather than the current 15% — a drop of five percent per month. Here is the analysis of the Atlantic:

For the average borrower, the impact would be small. In 2011, Bachelor’s degree recipients graduating with debt had an average balance of $27,204, according to an analysis done by, based on Department of Education data. That average has ballooned from just $17,646 over the past decade.

Using these values as the high and low bounds of average student debt over the last ten years, the monthly savings for the average student loan borrower would be between $4.50 and $7.75 per month. Clearly, this isn’t going to save the economy. While borrowers with bigger balances would save more, this is the average. And even someone with $100,000 in loans would only cut their monthly payments by $28.50.

The only looming issue is not the impact on students but the impact on the Constitution.

The initiative would alter an implementation date under previously enacted legislation. That would appear a rather glaring violation of the separation of powers. Yet, we once again face the question of standing. We are increasingly seeing cases of clear constitutional violation which are denied judicial review and relief under narrow interpretations of standing. This is the case with our challenge to President Obama’s claim that he can take the country to war without a declaration of Congress. We have also seen an array of challenges to policies or programs ranging from unlawful surveillance to torture to assassination lists denied review. I have long been a critic of this trend which leave order areas of the Constitution largely aspiration and without enforcement — a position that runs counter to the views of the Framers and leaves a dangerous gap in our constitutional system.

The claim of the President to be able to unilaterally alter legislation is something that liberals denounced during the Bush Administration. Yet, this change has produced little objection from the same quarters. It should. The threat posed by increasing student debt is real and needs to be addressed. However, it is not enough to say that I had to circumvent the legislative process to get what I want done. “We Can’t Yet” makes for a dangerous approach to constitutional interpretation.

Source: The Atlantic

57 thoughts on “The Obama Tuition Stimulus: Will Students Get A Sawbuck While The Constitution Get The Shaft?”

  1. “I am just curious as to why a truck driver or a waitress who did not go to college should be forced to subsidize another person’s college degree?”

    I am always amazed when people say such things. I have no children but I sure as heck have no problem paying my school taxes (well i do but that is a financial issue) because, well Harry Nevus already said it.

  2. “I am just curious as to why a truck driver or a waitress who did not go to college should be forced to subsidize another person’s college degree?”

    For the same reason that people support elementary schools after their kids are adults. It is to your benefit for people other than you to be trained. You drive on highways built by engineers. You eat food prepared by technical school graduates. Nurses care for you in a hospital. Engineers design the car you drive. Accountants help you with your taxes. Airplane pilots fly you to your destination. My doctor, lawyer, and banker are all younger than me.

    Perhaps in your selfish world, only rich people’s kids will care for your needs.

  3. Bron,

    I do not know….maybe those people that did not go to college may indirectly benefit from someone that did go to college…..Such as why do waitresses have to rely upon tips? Why don’t the employers pay a living wage….this goes even for the high dollar restaurants…Where the owners make millions a years…..

    BTW….I know a few folks that are service employed folks…that have college degrees….So really don’t slam them….

  4. I am just curious as to why a truck driver or a waitress who did not go to college should be forced to subsidize another person’s college degree?

  5. “There exists sufficient wealth in this country for any one to attend public college at no cost to them, and they need to be able to return at any time of their lives, given the rapid changes that are upon us. In this complex world, neither education nor health care are optional. Both are basic human necessities.”

    I agree with this. College should be free – to anyone who continues to meet some minimum standard. Slackers who carry a few credits and get Ds should be progressively disciplined out.

    Our tax dollars buy us the next generation of retail clerks, why not the next generation of police and firefighters to graduate community college, and the next generation of teachers, and the next generation of lawyers/doctors?

  6. Blouise, All 5! Holy cow, you couldn’t get away with anything if you tried 🙂 I think that’s great.

  7. correction … next to youngest grandchild (all five of them have called to correct me … smart asses)

  8. lotta,

    I am a strong supporter of vocational high schools. They are also now complete college prep as so many of their students in office management, graphic design, and scores of other fields go on to addition formal training at universities and trade/vocational colleges.

    Plus, the vocational high schools work closely with area businesses in providing paid internships while the kids are in high school. No part time jobs flippin’ burgers, these kids spend their summers and school vacations working full time jobs in companies that provide actual experience in their chosen fields. This gives them solid beginnings on resumes and a real jump on the competition after their schooling is completed.

  9. From the article

    It is now clear that it was the panel’s claims that were not reviewed.

    The affair raises serious questions about the rigour of the IPCC’s process of sifting and assessing the thousands of research findings it includes in its reports. It also raises questions about the competence of Pachauri, who angrily defended the report’s conclusions about Himalayan glaciers after they were called “alarmist” last autumn by India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh.

    Pachauri accused Ramesh of relying on “voodoo science”, called the minister “extremely arrogant” and said Ramesh’s claims were “not peer reviewed”. It is now clear that it was the panel’s claims that were not reviewed.

  10. I don’t know but the Himalaya’s are gonna melt by 2035

    Claims Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035 were false, says UN scientist

    • IPCC report said ice would vanish ‘perhaps sooner’
    • Panel head apologises for unsubstantiated assertion

    Facing global outcry, Rajendra Pachauri backed down and apologised today for a disputed IPCC claim that there was a very high chance the Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035.

    The assertion, now discredited, was included in the most recent IPCC report assessing climate change science, ­published in 2007. Those reports are widely credited with convincing the world that human activity was causing global warming.

    But Pachauri admitted in an IPCC statement (pdf) that in this case “the clear and well-established standards of evidence required by the IPCC procedures were not applied properly”, and “poorly substantiated estimates” of the speed of glacier melting had made it into print.

    He had stridently defended the report in recent months. Furthermore, the Guardian has discovered the claim was questioned by the Japanese government before publication, and by other scientists.

    in other words it wasn’t peer reviewed or printed in a journal. It was just accepted as fact because it was from the IPCC.

  11. Bdaman:

    I dont know about New York but I am freezing my ass off in Dixie right now.

    I am praying for global warming, the beach will be a lot closer to my house and it will be warm.

    That is the one thing I wish Hansen had been right about. Although Florida would be under water so I am sure the oldsters would have a problem with that.

    How long will it take 7000′ plus of polar ice to melt anyway? That is if the average global temperature makes it to the point where the poles are above 32 F long enough to melt that ice.

    By the way how many degree increase in average temp are they expecting?

    Did you know that if the polar ice melted we would have 2 new habitable continents, well almost; Greenland and Antarctica. Greenland doesnt exactly count but it sure looks big with no ice on it.

  12. Blouise, That’s excellent news about your grandchild. I know precision machining is a craft that has it’s roots in prehistory and now used laser and ‘water-jet’ tools to machine parts. It’s a craft that has benefited greatly from technology. The better half at one time worked for an aircraft manufacturer and would spend many of his breaks in the machine shop watching huge blocks of metal being machined via water-jet down to engine blocks. He found it fascinating.

  13. Bob Tisdale

    Date:August 21, 2011

    Subject:A Request About Your El Niño Predictions And A Question About Anthropogenic Global Warming

    To: James E. Hansen and Makiko Sato

    Dear Makiko and James:

    I am writing to you via my weblog with a request and a question. First, the request: Please stop predicting El Niño and Super El Niño events. Your track record is very poor. I, like many people who study ENSO, hope for extreme El Niño events, but when you predict a strong El Niño, a La Niña starts to evolve, and when you predict a “Super El Niño”, a mild El Niño comes to pass. Two examples come to mind:

    Your March 27, 2011 mailing Perceptions of Climate Change was published at a number of websites, including Climate Story Tellers and Truthout. It included the following prediction of an El Niño event for the 2011/12 ENSO season:

    Sometimes it is interesting to make a bet that looks like it is high risk, but really isn’t. Such a bet can be offered at this point. The NOAA web pages giving weekly ENSO updates predict a return to ENSO–neutral conditions by mid–summer with some models suggesting a modest El Nino to follow. We have been checking these forecasts weekly for the past several years, and have noted that the models almost invariably are biased toward weak changes. Based on subsurface ocean temperatures, the way these have progressed the past several months, and comparisons with development of prior El Niños, we believe that the system is moving toward a strong El Niño starting this summer. It’s not a sure bet, but it is probable.

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