With the presidential election rapidly approaching, it is important for college students to understand how each candidate will handle higher education policy, particularly in the area of student financial aid.
President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have two very different views on the matter, and while the situation for college students during Obama’s first term hasn’t been ideal, his policies are much better than Romney’s vague education platform.
Romney’s education plan is laid out on his campaign website mostly as a mere criticism of Obama, and provides no real solutions. It instead retreats to ill-defined promises to “strengthen and simplify” financial aid by welcoming “private sector participation,” while blaming a “flood of federal dollars” for tuition hikes.
Other than his strong desire to reverse Obama’s higher education reforms, it appears Romney hasn’t given much thought to college students, which is worse than any policy our president could propose.
Obama can point to reforms he has already passed, such as the pay-as-you-earn plan, which caps student loan repayment at 10 percent of a borrower’s income. He also ended private banks’ involvement in student loans, which will save an estimated $68 billion over the next decade by cutting out the middleman and charging the government with issuing student loans.
Romney has flip-flopped on the issue of Pell grants, a form of financial aid that does not need to be paid back, while Paul Ryan’s budget proposal slashes Pell funding altogether. Obama has already doubled funding for Pell grants and plans to give money to colleges that reform tuition affordability, similar to his Race to the Top challenge that rewarded reforms at the K–12 level.
Obama also wants students and parents to have more specific information about student debt and potential postgraduate earnings, which shows he is more in touch with what students are going through. In a speech at the University of North Carolina on April 24, he admitted he paid off his student debt only eight years ago.
“When [the first lady and I] graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt,” Obama said. “When we married, we got poor together.”
That same week, Romney said during a speech at Otterbein University that young people should “get the education [and] borrow money if you have to from your parents.” Romney is forgetting that most young people don’t come from families as affluent as his own.
Although tuition costs hit an all-time high during Obama’s first term, it can’t be completely attributed to him. Tuition was increasing long before Obama was elected.
At least Obama has a plan. The only thing Romney has promised is to reverse the policies Obama implemented. In regard to higher education policy, the preferable candidate is the one who actually has a plan.