"We'll help you pay for school, and we'll help even more if you're willing to serve your country. And together, we'll make 2004 the last year that debt and dollar signs come before degrees and dreams for the future."
As the American economy changes toward an information and service based economy, more and more, highly trained people are needed to fill jobs and fuel economic growth. We must have a good educational base in order to throw workers on the economic fire. Also, education can be used as a spring board into the middle class for people in America. That is why Kerry's above idea is a good idea to start the idea mill running, but I don't think it is the one to implement.
We already have the above system, through the national guard and army. Increasing those programs to a civilian corps type situation will only use federal money in an unproductive way.
I fail to see the cost savings per person educated of the above plan, versus the current private loan model. I do see how the poor could use the system to move up the economic ladder. The government will pay for you school, while you will work for 4 years (before or after school I don't know but kerry's statement could be taken to mean before school). The problem with the four years that you are working is that the government is making use of your skills, not the market.
One idea a friend brought up, giving teenagers an additional two years of school. That school could be directed toward explaining credit cards, civic responsibility, and taking college prep classes. Participation in voting and understanding of state and federal governments could help oil the wheels of democracy. The students would be older when they graduated from college, and maybe wiser. The economy might benefit from having mature, better trained workers entering the work force. That would also be at a tremendous cost for the tax payers, and I serious doubt that many states would attempt such a large program.
A single federal program, will not change the overall structure of the US education system. There must be a multi faceted market approach to increasing effectiveness of the education system.
State scholarships based on academic performance is good. A better system would be to award scholarships based on financial need, but the student who receive the scholarship would have to maintain a good GPA. This system could replace the current reward based scholarship system, and target the ones who need and want it the most.
Students should be isolated from their parents financial irresponsibility, and school loans could be given low interest rates. They all ready are, but could the be lower. At what point in the interest rates do the loan companies loose interest in loaning money? Does it really improve the overall economic performance of the country to have money lost to school loan interest?
Finally, the best way of lowering the cost of education is to increase the competition for the available students. What does it take to create a university and have it become profitable? Is their a market for education companies in the college market? If there is, why have they not filled it? Is government regulation slowing the advance of education companies? Answering some of these questions and solving some of the problems that come up, will help lower the cost of education.