Paul Ryan’s Anti-Poverty Plan Touts Higher Education, Job Training Reform

Rep. Paul Ryan (R – Wisconsin), House Budget Committee chairman, says his anti-poverty plan calls for a targeted approach to government aid and a plan that would tailor aid to individual needs, according to an article by The Washington Free Beacon.

“Each person has a different, unique circumstance and need, yet the federal government treats it all the same,” said Ryan. “So the vision here is, let’s customize aid to the person’s need to focus on getting them from where they are to where they want to be, which is a good job and a good career.”

As far as his take on education where poverty is concerned, Ryan focuses on early childhood and higher education.  In these two areas, it is Ryan’s suggestion that states take more responsibility, says Josh Burro of The New York Times. He does not mention the Common Core standards in the report, even though conservatives oppose them as a federal overreach in an area that ought to be a state and local matter.

Ryan’s blueprint for expanding opportunity is full of ideas about higher education and job training reform.  Andrew Kelly, writing for Forbes, adds that opportunities for high school graduates are dwindling and the cost of post-secondary education is becoming a tremendous burden to American families. The federal solution: increase student aid to bring prices down for the short run. This is not working.

Ryan’s treatise contains three elements of education reform:

1. Students need more options.  Accreditation reform is about deregulation, choice, and competition.  There is a need for a new accrediting paradigm which is a better fit for today’s demands.  He proposes getting employers getting involved in the accreditation process.

2. Simplify financial aid.  Notify students of their financial aid eligibility early so that the students and families can use the information from the previous year on aid applications.  Also, make the Pell Grant more flexible.

3. Cap PLUS loans and reform student loan forgiveness plans.  Republicans believe that federal student loan programs inflate tuition.  Ryan’s idea targets the programs that are most likely to inflate tuition.

Ryan suggests that nearly all federal education spending be block grants, according to an article on Vox by Libby Nelson, Andrew Prokop, and Dylan Matthews.  He also recommends Opportunity Grants to replace food stamps, housing assistance, Head Start, and so forth.  He also wants to create a number of pilot programs at the Head Start sites and at state-run pre-K facilities to test different program models.  His other ideas include:

• Continuing the same standardized testing as No Child Left Behind, but get rid of the federal definition of “adequate yearly progress”

• Having states set their own definition of progress

• Requiring states to report to the Education Department their intentions on how to improve poorly performing schools

• Changing income-based repayment programs for higher education loans

He wants each state to develop its own aid strategy to be approved by the federal government in order to qualify for funding.  The program would also have to be monitored by a third party.  He even suggested that states follow the model of Catholic Charities.

“Maybe she needs more child care and transportation, maybe this person needs more skills training and education,” Ryan offered as hypothetical examples of targeted aid.

Ryan says the status quo is not working, and the US has the highest poverty rates in a generation, even though the federal government is spending unprecedented amounts on these programs.  He suggests that focusing on outcomes and actually getting people out of poverty by customizing benefits to fit each person’s needs is how this should be done.