Both sides fail in student loan debate

Third, if Republicans are stealing from “women’s health,” then so are Democrats, because many Democrats voted earlier in the year to take money away from the same fund in order to raise doctors’ Medicare reimbursements.

Finally, both parties are in agreement that the lower interest rates should be maintained. President Obama and Democrats appear to have made this part of their political strategy to appeal to younger voters, while Republicans seem to have been caught off guard, even though their presumptive presidential nominee has taken the same position.

More, these loans are divorced from the reality of whether any individual loan makes sense. Half of today’s college graduates are jobless or underemployed. Yet, we have three million jobs waiting for people with the right skills. Logically, it makes more sense to offer low interest loans to those students who will be trained in specific areas.

The real issue is how we discuss the tsunami of upcoming issues as we choose among guns, butter and more debt. Rather than just robotically funding all existing benefits, we need to dig deep and question our assumptions. On the issue of college education, I would favor skills-based community colleges, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. We also need to consider that our tenure system and age discrimination laws make college unaffordable and block many of our best graduates from getting jobs.

Beyond the partisan rhetoric and election year politics, we need adult discussions about choices and sacrifices. The problem of Pell Grants won’t be solved with massive unfunded increases in the size of the program, nor by indiscriminately slashing funding. Instead, the program should be reformed so that it better meets our nation’s needs.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.”