The Republican victors in the United States mid-term election want savings that could lop billions of dollars off student loans and grants.
Last week the higher education lobby was studying every utterance of Newt Gingrich, the populist Republican from Georgia who is expected to be Speaker of the House of Representatives, and who has made no bones about his desire to see his conservative agenda of tax reductions and spending cuts put into practice.
Mr Gingrich taught history from 1970 to 1978 as an assistant professor at West Georgia College, a publicly-funded institution and is fond of harking back to the old days when Americans worked hard and were taught right from wrong.
Before the election Mr Gingrich called on fellow Republicans to support cuts in student grants and loan programmes. Although this was not part of the party's "Contract with America" -- the platform setting out tax and public spending cuts -- Gingrich mentioned specific higher education programmes as worthy of the axe.
Student loans should be rewritten, he said, so that interest begins accruing while the students are in college, rather being deferred until after college. This would save the American taxpayer $10 billion over five years.
He also called for the elimination of campus programmes, such as work study and a type of loan called Perkins loans, which would save $1.4 billion.