The Republican candidates for president debated at Oakland University just north of Detroit a few days ago, and several students expressed concerns about the current student loan crisis. Apparently only two candidates had the chance to answer their concerns – Ron Paul, whose opinion I have already blogged about, and Newt Gingrich, who had this to say:
Calling the current student loan program an “absurdity,” Gingrich said he supports forcing more students to take part in work-study programs. It would be a “culture shock for the students of America to learn we actually expect them to go to class, study, get out quickly, charge as little as possible, and emerge debt free by doing the right things for four years,” he said.
Having held a few work study positions back when I was in college, I decided to check Newt’s math. Many work study positions, including those I held, are paid at the federal minimum wage, and they also have limitations on the number of hours a student can work. During the school year I was limited to 10 hrs per week so, for example, when I worked in my school’s foreign language lab in Spring of 1998, I made $5.15 per hour (minimum wage in that year – and for many years after) or a grand total of $51.50 per week before taxes. Tuition at my university at that time? Approximately $17000 per year.
But let’s pretend those pesky limits on hours hadn’t been there. To earn my tuition, in an imaginary utopia where there were no taxes, I would have had to work 3300 hours per year, or 63 hours per week – with no time off and while going to school full-time. And remember, this is if work study wasn’t taxed, which, of course, it is. Yes, Newt, that seems realistic. Read more…