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Monday, July 6, 2015

Privateering on Higher Education

A Review of Christopher Newfield's "From Master Plan to No Plan - The Forty Year assault on the Middle Class."

Source: Facebook article

It's hard to believe but we almost achieved the goal of free higher education for qualified students. All that changed in the 60's. A deliberate multi-pronged attack on the middle class was launched then. And the centerpiece of this pirate attack was a privateering attack on the very notion of Free Higher Education. Substituting for free education was a system of loan guarantees that pretended to guarantee loans for students, but were designed to guarantee profits for investors and saddle students with debt. The changes weren't by accident. In a review by Aaron Bady and Mike Konczal titled From Master Plan to No Plan -- the Slow Death of PUblic Higher Education encapsulates the message in Christopher Newfield's book.

They note that Ronald Reagan ran for Governor in 1966:

"...after running a scorched-earth campaign against the University of California, Reagan vowed to “clean up that mess in Berkeley,” warned audiences of “sexual orgies so vile that I cannot describe them to you,” complained that outside agitators were bringing left-wing subversion into the university, and railed against spoiled children of privilege skipping their classes to go to protests" ... "it was the University of California at Berkeley that provided the most useful political foil, crystallizing all of his ideological themes into a single figure for disorder, a subversive menace of sexual, social, generational, and even communist deviance." [Dissent Magazine Review]

Reagan vowed to cut taxes. He claimed that cutting taxes would counter-intuitively increase revenues. And he went after Higher Education with a vengeance. Reagan's program was Nationwide. It involved a paradigm shift from the Right Wing of the country. Where previously they'd supported notions of equality. They now saw equality as dangerous. Reagan's policies marked a shift in policies from free education for poor and middle class to:

cutting "state funding for higher education, laid the foundations for a shift to a tuition-based funding model, and called in the National Guard to crush student protest, which it did with unprecedented severity. But he was only able to do this because he had already successfully shifted the political debate over the meaning and purpose of public higher education in America. The first “bums” he threw off welfare were California university students. Instead of seeing the education of the state’s youth as a patriotic duty and a vital weapon in the Cold War, he cast universities as a problem in and of themselves—both an expensive welfare program and dangerously close to socialism. He even argued for the importance of tuition-based funding by suggesting that if students had to pay, they’d value their education too much to protest."

Essentially, in the propaganda of the Reagan years Students were parasites, welfare queens and needed to be disciplined. Essentially this was preliminary to the theme we have now of the middle class as "takers." But it also was part of a program of abusive lending laws that eventually made education loans difficult to impossible to discharge in bankruptcy, starting with legal changes in 1998 that made Federal loans non-dischargeable and completing with changes in 2005 that applied those changes to private loans. [student-loan-debt_b_1403280.html]

Thank the Gypper

So, if you don't like the fact that a decent education now costs even more at a State College or University than some private ones, thank the Gipper and his allies in the GOP. This was their plan.

This was win/win for the Cons.

1. It transfers wealth gained from any increased productivity from students back to the coupon clipper investor class.
2. It puts ex students in hoc to the loan officers, which restricts their horizons post college to for profit activities so they can pay back their loan. This limits the pro-bono, volunteer and mission centered type work to those occupations that subsidize the loans.
3. It makes private education on a parity with public education and drives up prices for both -->funneling money to investors and administrators.
4. And yes it dumbs down people by scaring them, thus shutting off the pre-frontal lobes and reducing their willingness to employ those analytical abilities they worked so hard to cultivate.
5. It discourages people from pursuing a higher education, protecting the futures of otherwise undistinguished kids of privilege
6. It made it easier to bully academics and to replace academic officers with faceless administrators by shifting the focus of universities from educating students to raising funds and dealing with budget cuts.

More To the Story

There is much more to the book than a discussion of how the Republicans privateered higher education. It's also about how the Far Right dominated and conquered academia. It's worth reading. And the reality is that we middle class folks know the value of a public education, and if government officials abandon us, we've looked elsewhere:

"For-profit education flooded the market only after the state began to abandon its responsibility to create sufficient institutional capacity in the public system. The problem is not government action, but inaction. As the government gave up its Master Plan responsibility to educate California students, the for-profit sector expanded to fill the demand."
Sources and Further reading:
SALLIE MAE Timeline []
From Master Plan to No Plan: []
You can Read Newfield's book here:
This Huffingtonpost article on the history of Student debt confirmed my memory:
This article was sparked by a post by Dejan Kostic at "World Truth TV":

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