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Ignore money: Shaheen's awful college advice

January 18. 2013 12:24AM

Among the worst advice we have ever seen given to college-bound students came on Tuesday from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, self-appointed protector of college students. We understand that many politicians live in a sort of fantasy world in which economic considerations do not apply to one's actions, but encouraging young adults to live in that world is really too much.

Sen. Shaheen is a sponsor of the "Pay As You Earn plan." The legislation "caps payments for Federal Direct Student Loans at 10 percent of discretionary income," as a Shaheen press release explained it. The idea is that recent college graduates often have low-paying jobs, so their student loan payments should be held to levels they can always afford to make.

Shaheen said the plan "is especially important for workers in lower-paying public service careers, such as teachers, nurses, or first-responders." Then she made this stunning statement: "Students should be able to pursue a career based on their passions and interests, not by concerns about being able to pay back their loans."

In what universe?

Shaheen would have students pursue their dreams free from financial considerations. Their parents might have other ideas. Choosing to be a social worker or a (gulp) journalist instead of a banker or entrepreneur is a matter of more than personal fulfillment. It is a matter of economics as well. Young people should understand the real-life financial consequences of their career choices. They should not be encouraged by government policy to expect that such consequences are a matter of no concern.

The ready availability of government-subsidized, low-interest student loans already encourages people to pursue careers with little regard to their ability to repay those debts. Further distancing career choices from the financial realities that await in the real world sounds compassionate, but it could lead to many more people staying in debt much longer while pursuing work for which there is little demand.

Education Politics Editorial

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