Ed Sec: Student Loans to Funnel the Talented into Government

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was on NPR’s “All Things Considered” Tuesday, interviewed on the topic of the student loan nationalization program that President Obama signed into law earlier that day (as part of the health care reconciliation). In the interview, Duncan elevates government service over private sector employment, a world view that seems to be spreading with serious, negative implications for U.S. innovation and prosperity. From the transcript:

NORRIS: For students who already have guaranteed student loans, the changes will place in 2014, and at that point, students can cap their payments at a rate that’s equal to 10 percent of their discretionary income. That’s slightly lower than the cap right now. How do you prevent banks from trying to use that gap between now and when this new law will take effect to try to maximize their profits?

Sec. DUNCAN: Yeah, I don’t think they can do that, and what this really means, let me take a minute to explain to listeners that historically, there is always phenomenal talent, folks who graduated from college who wanted to go into the public sector, but because they had $60, $80, $100,000 worth of loans, they simply couldn’t follow their heart, couldn’t follow their passion. And so we lost a huge amount of that talent.

Now, across the board, loan repayments will be indexed to 10 percent of income. So it helps remove that barrier. But the thing I’m most excited about this: If you choose to go into the public sector, if you choose to become a teacher obviously I’m very biased there or work for the government or run a legal clinic in an impoverished community or help run a health care clinic if you’re coming out of law school or medical school, after 10 years, any debt you have, any remaining debt, will be absolutely forgiven, will be erased.

So this is a monumental breakthrough. It’s a huge chance for this next generation of, you know, hardworking, committed folks to come into public sector, come into education and make a difference and not have to take other jobs just because they pay more money.

Yes, very biased. It’s a strange idea — familiar in D.C., granted — that the nation is better served by encouraging college students to become government employees than enter the private sector.

In conceptually related news, The Washington Examiner reported Tuesday, “Good times for government workers as pay outpaces private sector.”

USA TODAY reported earlier in the month, “Federal pay ahead of private industry

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