July 23, 2024
Loans

Pro-Palestinian protests could erode support for Biden’s student loan transfer scheme


Republicans are sensing a new opening to attack the Biden administration for its nearly $160 billion in student loan debt cancellation as pro-Palestinian protests on elite college campuses across the country spawn images of chaos and, in some cases, destruction.

The protests have spread nationwide since an encampment at Columbia University sprouted two weeks ago. Most of the protests have broken school policy with occupations of parts of campus, and some have been characterized by protesters who block students from going to class, intimidate classmates, and some who have even engaged in “mob warfare” at the University of California, Los Angeles, according to Jonathan Butcher, senior research fellow in education policy for the Heritage Foundation.

“Taxpayers should be asking what they are paying for with student loans,” Butcher said in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “Taxpayers are being asked to pay debt for a sector, higher education, that at the moment is not demonstrating that they can make campuses a physically safe place.”

“Why in the world would we ask taxpayers to pay for students to be there if they can’t even go to class?” Butcher added. “Jewish students can’t even walk into a building to go to class, and we’re gonna say, ‘Oh, well, we’re gonna forget the loans of all kids, even if some of those kids are blocking other students from going to class.”

Critics have spent days calling for campus administrators to break up the encampments, since they are illegal, with police force. Many appeared unwilling to do so until Tuesday night, when several schools, most notably Columbia, decided to send police in to take back control of campus. At Columbia, police breached the overrun Hamilton Hall to take back control and clear the encampment.

One day later, the Biden administration announced another $6.1 billion in loan “cancellation,” bringing the total close to $160 billion for nearly 4.6 million borrowers. That announcement came against the backdrop of continuing uncertainty over the ability of some of the nation’s most exclusive and expensive universities to maintain control of their campuses.

“It’s infuriating to watch postsecondary education nosedive into the ground while President Biden continues to transfer student loan debt to taxpayers,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, told the Washington Examiner. “It’s wrong to make taxpayers foot the bill, especially right now as antisemitic protests boil over on campuses across the country. Thanks to President Biden, the American people are subsidizing terrorism, antisemitism, and violence.”

Critics point out that there is no such thing as debt “cancellation,” and they say the scheme actually transfers debt to taxpayers while allowing college students to get away with intimidating students on campus with protests.

Although the Biden administration has already transferred the debt of millions of borrowers to taxpayers, Butcher said the least the White House could do now is make the debt scheme contingent on whether administrators are actually capable of keeping their campuses physically safe for students.

“If campuses are not a physically safe place for students, the university should be fully responsible for paying for student loans,” he said.

Republicans should be connecting the dots politically as well, Butcher said. Although education does not typically make it on the list of top-tier campaign issues, such as immigration and the economy, Republicans should make clear that the average voter’s “ability to afford things is based on the amount of tax burden that Washington gives them” and that the burden will not only increase because of the student loan debt transfer, but the payment can be seen as immoral for supporting the protesters.

“It matters for the sake of law and order, and it matters because you’re dealing with somebody else’s money,” Butcher said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, has started making a foray into connecting Democrats and their student loan transfer to the pro-Palestinian protesters.

The NRSC is targeting vulnerable Democrats across the country, launching ads tying student loan transfers to some of the protesters who have espoused more extreme views. As of Wednesday, the NRSC started running ads against Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Jon Tester (D-MT), as well as Rep. Elise Slotkin (D-MI) who is running for Senate in Michigan.

“Students radicalized by the far Left are acting like terrorists. Now Joe Biden and Bob Casey want to pay off their student loans using your tax dollars to fund this mayhem?” the ad against the Pennsylvania Democrat states. It also recalls chants of “death to America” and attacking police.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

According to Axios, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign arm, will soon follow suit.

The Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment from the Washington Examiner.



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