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Comparing the candidates’ education policies

Published: October 12, 2012
Section: Opinions


It is paramount that we should vote with knowledge of the educational stances of the presidential candidates. The presidential debates and negative ads make it easy to get caught in the emotion involved in politics, to look at the rhetoric, but not actual policies of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and what they imply. In order to look beyond the rhetoric one must look carefully at the meaning of certain words and their implications.

With all of us registering to vote and getting out to the polls in less than a month, it is our responsibility to be aware of all issues, particularly the ones that will directly affect us and other students. Students should have an even greater critical eye than the average citizen on the candidates’ policy for education reforms, the past actions of the presidential candidates and how they plan to implement these policies over the next four years. We are a part of the educational system and it is unquestionable that these educational policies will continue to not only influence us current students, but also past and future students.

Despite the importance of education and the value placed on it within our nation, there is not much talk from either candidate as to the specific course of actions they plan to take once elected. It takes some research to investigate the candidates’ stances because it does not seem to be on the forefront of their platforms. In the current economy, the student debt rate has reached a trillion dollars. More and more students and parents are taking out loans that they cannot afford. As students we know and hope that change will take place and make the education system more affordable, especially for middle-class families. Earlier in the campaign, people were outraged when Mitt Romney stated that students should just “borrow money from your parents” to afford schools. The idea is to make college affordable for everyone, not push your parents into loans that they can’t pay off.

Looking at the current president’s work on higher education, his policy reveals work toward making college more affordable. President Obama won approval from Congress for a $10,000 college tax credit over four years and increases in Pell Grants and other financial aid. The New York Times states that these credits would extend a tax credit currently set to expire in January and give individuals and families a tax break of up to $10,000 over four years of college. The New York Times goes on to state that Obama would also push a proposal that would link some federal aid to colleges’ success in curbing tuition increases. Obama understands that college expenses are high, but his initiatives are specific goals that work toward helping us. He doesn’t want to cut current student’s loans, but rather work with Congress to create more sources of money for students.

Obama stated that, “If Congress allows the interest rate on student loans to double, they will be failing a generation of Americans who cannot afford to be in debt for the rest of their lives.” Obama is not narrowing down the percentage of the population that does and does not receive aid. He is simply stating the role that the federal government and private institutions should provide to students who want to attend their schools. It is a general message of affordability and sustainability of the college system in hopes for a brighter future.

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, has a differing view. According to The Huffington Post, Romney argues that increases in federal student aid encourage tuition to go up, too. He wants federal government to be less involved in higher education. Romney wants to see more involvement with the private sector through private lenders returning to the federal student loan program. This could be beneficial since it seems that the federal government has not been providing enough money to support schools and students. Full analysis of Romney’s plans, however, proves troubling.

What’s worrisome with Romney’s plan is that it would make it more difficult for middle-class families to pay for college education. While in the most recent debate Romney stated that he would not cut college funds, his policies suggest otherwise. According to The New York Times, Mr. Romney would work to make financial aid available for students who “need it most.” While this may sound appealing, Mitt Romney’s definition of middle class is not like that of the average American. He considers middle class between $200-250k. In actuality, a lot of what we consider to be the middle class would be hurt by his policies. The “need it most” of Romney’s plan isn’t applicable to many of us middle-class students that are struggling with college prices.

Regardless of whether you vote for Obama or Romney it is incredibly vital, as students, to continue looking up current educational policies and plans, comparing what is said in debates to what is written down in their policies, and taking an active role as a voter.