Rep. Woodall On Federal Education Aid: If College Is So Valuable, "Why Do We Have To Pay People To Do It?"

November 30, 2011 4:00 pm ET — Salvatore Colleluori

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) came to the House floor today to attack federal education aid, which Republicans are looking to gut. Responding to Rep. Joe Courtney's (D-CT) statement that higher education increases workers' earnings over the course of their careers, Woodall asked, "if the value [of higher education] is undisputable [sic], why do we have to pay people to do it?" 

WOODALL: My colleague who was here right before me said the value of higher education, in terms of future earnings, is undisputable [sic]. The value of higher education, Mr. Speaker, in terms of future earnings is undisputable. And then went on to talk about all the federal programs that provide money so that people can seek higher education. Now my question is, Mr. Speaker, if the value is undisputable why do we have to pay people to do it? If the value is undisputable, why do we have to pay people to do it?

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What Rep. Woodall seems to misunderstand is that the federal government isn't paying people to go to college when they don't want to; it's helping those in need afford higher education in order to obtain higher earnings throughout their careers. In 2009, the average person with a bachelor's degree out-earned those with high school diplomas by over $15,000. In addition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor's degree is only 4.4 percent, compared to 9.6 percent for high school graduates with no college education.

However, in order to get the jobs that are afforded to those with higher education, low-income students often need assistance to pay for skyrocketing education costs. College seniors are graduating with increasing debt loads, and according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, "three in four Americans now say college is too expensive for most people to afford." Aid like the Pell Grant program, which provides "need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and post baccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education," provides that assistance. According to the Center for American Progress, "[m]ore than 60 percent of Pell Grant recipients had family incomes of less than $20,000 for the 2009-2010 school year."

Giving qualified and willing students help in managing exorbitant higher education costs isn't the same as 'paying' them to do it; it's a way to invest in America's future workforce by equipping the best and brightest with the tools to earn a living.

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