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Ronald Reagan said it best.

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

I was reflecting on this quote in light of Washington’s plan, as part of “health-care reform,” to nationalize all college loans.

This is an aspect of the legislation that hasn’t received nearly as much attention as it deserves, because it’s one of those seemingly innocuous, do-gooder notions that most people just don’t understand.

Why would a government deeply, hopelessly in debt seek a monopoly on college loans?

Obviously, Washington under the rulership of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid intends to grab power any way it can. Obviously, there is a desire to increase the public’s dependency on government. Obviously, such a move will result in most college graduates being in servitude to the state.

But there’s even more at stake in this ploy.

There are a handful of colleges across the country that remain independent of federal control – Hillsdale College in Michigan, Grove City College in Pennsylvania and Patrick Henry College in Virginia.

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These colleges do not accept federal dollars even indirectly through student financial-aid programs. If they did, they understand they would have to accept federal control over their curricula and other matters.

In other words, they have chosen to take a very principled stand to remain free, independent and to pursue academic excellence.

What will happen to those few institutions holding out against intrusions by Washington if students are forced to get loans from the federal government?

Think about it.

Not only is this a way for Washington to expand its tentacles of control over individuals, it is also a way to try to shut down or cripple those few colleges that reject federal strings.

Students seeking an independent education free from state control could have nowhere left to turn.

Right now, because those colleges are so good at equipping their students for the future, they have a disproportionately positive impact on our society and culture. They provide an alternative to the state indoctrination found at virtually every other so-called private college or university in the country – and, of course, from the “public” colleges and universities that are 100 percent state-controlled.

That salt and light could conceivably lose its savor and its illumination because of this attack on liberty by government.

It seems the government might not just be seeking a monopoly on education loans – it might be seeking a monopoly on education. And that is a scary thought.

But it’s more than a thought. It’s a reality. Look what government education has meant to us over the last 50 years. Can anyone say we are a brighter, more educated, more well-informed, self-reliant and self-governing populace as a result of government’s near-monopoly on schooling?

How much education is really taking place in government schools – education as opposed to social conditioning? Today’s urban schools more often resemble penitentiaries than they do places of learning. Government has no incentive to produce independent-minded, liberty-seeking, self-governing individuals. Instead, the stated goal is usually preparing students for the workplace – mass-producing cogs for society’s cogwheels.

And now government has determined it to be illegal for any private institution to lend money to college students who need help.

Only the government can do it.

It’s amazingly audacious. It’s frighteningly unconstitutional. It’s devastating in its effect. It’s lethal not only to liberty now, but makes it nearly impossible to prepare free men and women for the world tomorrow.

In some ways, this college-loan power grab is more disturbing and blatantly illegal than even the health-care provisions that shroud it from scrutiny and analysis.

What can we do about it?

Aside from throwing the bums out of Washington and reversing this hideous legislative monstrosity, it’s time to double-down and stand with those few independent, freedom-minded colleges that are standing on principle rather than allowing themselves to be controlled by government.

We need them now more than ever.

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