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. U.S. Top Climate Scientist Hansen ‘nails’ another one of his climate predictions.

    “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.”


    NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center: La Niña is back

    La Niña, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter. Today, forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center upgraded last month’s La Niña Watch to a La Niña Advisory.

    NOAA will issue its official winter outlook in mid-October, but La Niña winters often see drier than normal conditions across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.

  2. The article was published Tuesday, Oct 23, 2001 minus 12-13 years mean he met Hansen in the late 80’s. We will round up to 1990. 20 years makes 2010. Don’t go to Broadway in New York it will be under water soon according to the top U.S. Climate scientist.

  3. Bron

    While doing research 12 or 13 years ago, I met Jim Hansen, the scientist who in 1988 predicted the greenhouse effect before Congress. I went over to the window with him and looked out on Broadway in New York City and said, “If what you’re saying about the greenhouse effect is true, is anything going to look different down there in 20 years?” He looked for a while and was quiet and didn’t say anything for a couple seconds. Then he said, “Well, there will be more traffic.” I, of course, didn’t think he heard the question right. Then he explained, “The West Side Highway [which runs along the Hudson River] will be under water. And there will be tape across the windows across the street because of high winds. And the same birds won’t be there. The trees in the median strip will change.” Then he said, “There will be more police cars.” Why? “Well, you know what happens to crime when the heat goes up.”

    And so far, over the last 10 years, we’ve had 10 of the hottest years on record.

    Didn’t he also say that restaurants would have signs in their windows that read, “Water by request only.”

    Under the greenhouse effect, extreme weather increases. Depending on where you are in terms of the hydrological cycle, you get more of whatever you’re prone to get. New York can get droughts, the droughts can get more severe and you’ll have signs in restaurants saying “Water by request only.”

    When did he say this will happen?

    Within 20 or 30 years. And remember we had this conversation in 1988 or 1989.

    Does he still believe these things?

    Yes, he still believes everything. I talked to him a few months ago and he said he wouldn’t change anything that he said then.

    Do most scientists who believe in the greenhouse effect say that we should expect to see more environmental catastrophes in the next 25 to 50 years?

  4. You are the guy who continues to mock scientific consensus on global climate change, so respectfully, come on man.

    I’m not the only one and those numbers continue to go up the more that gets exposed.

  5. If the president can murder anyone, anytime, anywhere on the planet without even having to explain why, does it really matter if he starts screwing with college loan legislation? Since when we start giving a shit about the constitution?

  6. lotta & James,

    My youngest grandchild choose the trade school route and spent the last two years of high school at a vocational high school … precision machining. She’s now a tool and die apprentice which is a four year apprenticeship. Journeymen tool and die makers average $90,000 – $120,000 a year working for someone else and have the freedom to open their own shop if they wish to be totally independent. They are also in demand all over the world so are not tied to one specific location or country.

    Further, she earns money throughout the four years (rates are set by state apprenticeship boards) and the shop sponsoring her apprenticeship pays all the expenses of her schooling for which they are allowed both a federal and state tax break. Her only expense are tools.

    The other 5 guys in her graduating class went onto a trade school/college for aeronautical machining and aerostructural engineering. Their earning potential upon graduation will be the same as hers.

  7. rafflaw:

    we are always near the breaking point with some issue or another that if we dont fix will be the end of mankind. Been going on for a thousand years.

    At some point you would think people would start taking a harder look at the information.

    Wasnt Erlich foretelling mass starvation by 1990 because of a huge increase in population?

    It is the same sort of thing with Climate Change. It is agenda driven and is not science. When the bucks are coming from the politicians and the politicians think Global Warming will get them votes, well you get the idea.

    There is no such thing as free scientific inquiry when government funds are involved.

  8. Blouise, Bdaman, when I was coming up my city was blessed wit two excellent vocational high schools covering the full range of crafts. I attended one, hired out at minimum wage as an apprentice my last semester of high school (for a grade applied to my diploma quals) and ended up after a few years and some job changes in the same field maxing out in that profession (as my first career) making wages at the low end of middle class.

    It was a city high school. They both were. It’s not the way to get wealthy but it was a way to get to the middle class and it was considered enough of a government function for people to do so that it was a public school. In that career the majority of the people I ended up working with that were born locally got their start in one of those two schools or the military.

    The schools shut down when the manufacturing jobs started to dry up. Private schools and universities took care of the transition to the computer era. Now, Private schools, some of the quite expensive, are offering training on the trades.

    I think vocational schools should still be a function of public education.

  9. rafflaw:

    climate change is not the issue, climate is changing all the time. The issue is the reason and there are many who have different ideas than the conventional wisdom about AGW or even AGCC.

  10. “I am interested in how I am being bigoted though? By saying people could make more money in some trade than getting a college degree? How is that being bigoted?”

    This is not what you said. You did not originally use the phrase “make more money.” Your original post contained the phrase “do better” instead. To me, there is a mile of difference between the two.

    It is not for you to decide that these two are the same thing for all people. That is the bigoted part. Nor is it for you to decide which learning has “more value” than another. That is a personal decision despite any attempts to monetize it.

    Congratulations on your welding efforts. It is an art form more than a trade, and it takes years and years to master.

  11. Bdaman,
    I realize that Prof. Turley was/is the lead counsel. Come on man. When your friends make a mockery of fair play and abuse the rules of the Senate and block every attempt to correct the economy that Bush trashed and you say come on man to me? You are the guy who continues to mock scientific consensus on global climate change, so respectfully, come on man.

  12. James:

    actually I went to welding school and can weld and use a torch. I wouldnt trust me welding a pipe line but I can certainly weld 2 pcs of steel together so they will stay together. And the welds were pretty good too, not too much undercut and good puddles as well.

    I dont do it for a living but it certainly made me aware of what is required which is necessary in what I do every day.

    I am interested in how I am being bigoted though? By saying people could make more money in some trade than getting a college degree? How is that being bigoted?

    I have met trades people who are much smarter than people I know with college degrees and they read more too.

    Maybe you are the bigot?

  13. @raff “Maybe we need a non-violent Revolution to put the power and money back in the hands of the 99%.”

    We witness the beginnings of it with OWS. The narrative headed into an election year is not about tea people, it’s about America’s love affair with the rich being over. Not richness, per se. But the current crop of rich have worn out their welcome. They are nothing to which anyone wants to aspire, not with a straight face. The diametric change in values is too much for most to stomach.

  14. Bdaman,
    the Right will file their law suits and they may win

    Raff another come on man moment for you.

    Jonathan Turley
    Lead Counsel in Kucinich v. Obama

    Are you suggesting Kucinich is a rightwinger

    Come on man

  15. OS,
    You are correct. The Right wants to keep the middle class down just enough to keep their tax cuts and credits, but enough that we keep buying their crap.
    Blouise, you are also correct that even trade schools cost big bucks. Swarthmore, my daughter also got tuition breaks due to her academic and test background, but she still came out with over $100,000 in debt.
    the Right will file their law suits and they may win, but in the meantime, something will be done to help those who are getting screwed. Maybe we need a non-violent Revolution to put the power and money back in the hands of the 99%.

  16. “I do not agree with the President having the power to alter legislation, but when the Senate is being controlled by a minority and the economy is being tanked purposely in order to attempt a change in the White House and in Congress, maybe all bets are off. If a Supreme Court Justice is allowed to take valuable gifts from litigants and his wife is allowed to take thousands from lobbyists, maybe a President has no alternative. When the Supreme Court is bought by corporate interests and corporations are declared persons, then maybe something has to be done. ” (raff)

    No maybe about it..

    And … trade schools, past the high school years, also cost money not to mention the cash needed immediately for tools and equipment. A typical set of depth mics for an aspiring machinist, tool and die maker, or precision machinist run anywhere from $250 -$600 and that is just one tool in a toolbox that over a 3-4 year time span requires hundreds of individual tools. A kid must have the tuition for trade school, books, and very expensive tools so anyone who tells you that going into a trade isn’t as expensive as college is completely ignorant and talking pure bullshit.

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