Blame student loans on Sputnik: How the 1957 launch of a Soviet rocket inspired the government to overhaul education


Satellite and sunrise in space.

When the USSR launched Sputnik, the first orbiting satellite, the US worried it was falling behind.
Eisenhower responded by creating a program to help more people afford college — and boost the US.
While it was created to further educational equity, the student-loan program now furthers debt.

Sputnik was a wake-up call for the US: Americans needed to be smarter.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first Earth-orbiting satellite, Sputnik. It was a clear sign to President Dwight Eisenhower that the US needed to be producing more scientists and engineers to compete with other nations. But there was one problem — the education system at the time was exclusive and shut out low- and middle-income people from participating. 

America wasn’t going to catch up to the Soviets in the “space race” as long as that was the case.

Congress stepped in and created the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) at Eisenhower’s request, which allowed the government to give loans to students in science and mathematics fields. It was later amended to remove restrictions on fields of study. 

In other words, Sputnik spurred the creation of the federal student-loan program, as detailed in “The Debt Trap,” a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Josh Mitchell.

“It is no exaggeration to say that America’s progress in many fields of endeavor in the years ahead — in fact, the very survival of our free country — may depend in large part upon the education we provide for our young people now,” the House report recommending the bill’s passage stated. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson said in 1964 remarks that more than 600,000 additional students had gotten access to education thanks to the NDEA’s student-loan program. But there was still more to do to tackle affordability, Johnson said, noting that Americans were spending $4,000 to $5,000 on each child’s college.

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, this just must not continue,” Johnson added. “The challenge is obvious and we must meet it. Higher costs must not put higher education out of reach.”

Today, the average annual out-of-state tuition for a public university is $15,000, fewer and fewer people are enrolling in college as the nation’s student-debt load stands at $1.7 trillion and grows by the day. What started as an altruistic educational pursuit has now become a full-fledged crisis.

Government involvement in US education is hurting the people it intended to help 

Johnson, well …read more

Source:: Business Insider

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