As the Washington Times reported on September 24th, even International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde is hoping that the American Congress will put responsibility ahead of politics in order to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.” But it’s not only world leaders and bankers who need to be concerned about that: students who are continuing their education at online accounting schools have just as much to lose.
The term “fiscal cliff” is a dramatized description of the blunt spending-reduction measures that were enacted concurrently with raising the US Government’s debt ceiling. During the debate over raising that ceiling – which allowed the Federal Government to continue borrowing money even though Gross Domestic Product (or GDP) was shrinking – Congress agreed to reduce spending in the long haul. To create a stick that would drive responsible spending reduction, they created a disastrous scenario: massive cuts to every section of the federal budget.
Because the American political arena is so starkly partisan, discussion of the fiscal cliff invariably pits entitlement programs (such as Medicaid and food assistance) on one side and defense spending on the other side. In many ways this is turning the coming election into an ideological contest between two views of government. In one, taxes take money from the whole population and give that money to the poorest members in order to ensure a bearable minimum standard of living; in the other, taxes take money from the whole population and give it to companies, which hire workers, who in turn pay taxes.
But that big picture shrouds the reality of what it would mean to individual people if the country were actually to go off that fiscal cliff. For example, the federally guaranteed, low interest money that is funneled into Sallie Mae student loans every year could take a disastrous hit, forcing students to take more of their student loans from private banks instead of the government’s servicing company. That would put those students at the mercy of institutions that haven’t exactly showed themselves to be shining examples of integrity and good will.
This would probably hit students at career colleges the hardest. Established, traditional colleges and universities reside in a different segment of the educational landscape; they are nonprofit organizations with large donor pools and political clout, and many are venerated as important cultural institutions. Career colleges are for-profit organizations that provide practical knowledge to students that will enable them to find and succeed in work situations.
This could be a hard hit to thousands of hardworking people who are trying to better themselves by getting an education in business, management, accounting, or another field that will give them access to promotions that are out of reach because they lack a degree.
The looming fiscal cliff is an enormous problem, but within its enormity it is also an intimate problem that can have real impacts on real people. While the debate between the ideologies of a nanny state and the world’s police force rages, the fate of working people getting their degrees through online accounting schools hangs in the balance.