October is here and that means a cooler, crisper breeze, the World Series is on, football is on the television, and college basketball is about a month away. It’s a good time of the year! And every four years, those of us living in the great United States get to mix in some national-level politics, too! I have a few different posts that I’m working on that, in part, talk about issues related to the election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
With this entry, I’d like to kick off my comments about this year’s Presidential election by providing you with some official comments on what each campaign thinks about “my issue” – that is, what they think about student loans.
From the Obama website (the Obama website bashes Romney quite a bit; that low-level partisanship crap is not carried over here):
By doubling funding for Pell Grants and establishing a college tax credit, President Obama is putting higher education within reach for millions more Americans.
President Obama successfully fought to prevent federal student loan interest rates from doubling for more than 7 million students, and capped federal student loan repayments at 10% of income. This means responsible students and their families can make decisions about the future based on career goals rather than the price of tuition.
From the Romney website:
Higher Ed: A New Vision Of Affordable And Applicable Learning
America’s traditional community and four-year colleges are the heart of our nation’s higher education system. However, a flood of federal dollars is driving up tuition and burdening too many young Americans with substantial debt and too few opportunities. Meanwhile, other models of advanced skills training are becoming ever more important to success in the American economy, and new educational institutions will be required to fill those roles. Mitt’s reforms spur the access, affordability, innovation, and transparency needed to address all of these challenges:
- Strengthen And Simplify The Financial Aid System.
- Welcome Private Sector Participation Instead Of Pushing It Away.
- Replace Burdensome Regulation With Innovation And Competition.
There are additional comments on each website regarding the candidates’ educational plans and the Obama website also gives additional details, separately, about his plan. However, Obama’s website goes well out of its way to bash and mischaracterize his opponent. It’s really disheartening that the President of the United States would rely on old school, bash-based politics for his re-election campaign – especially after tens of millions voted for a politician in 2008 who promised hope for the future and change from that type of politics.
Oh well, I guess that hope and change guy from 2008 wasn’t being entirely truthful about what type of change we had in store!
All of that aside, the takeaway that I get from reading the two blurbs above is that neither of these candidates are speaking directly to my concerns about student loans. Sure, they are talking about making college more affordable, but that’s really a false issue. Think about it – why do you think the cost of higher education keeps skyrocketing? It has nothing to do with the salaries of professors or staff (despite what you might hear). The truth is that colleges are in a cutthroat race against each other to provide higher levels of service and better, more modern facilities. And neither of these candidates has a solution that addresses that problem because, frankly, it’s not a concern that should be handled at the federal level!
You may be wondering, “Then what would be a good answer for you on this topic, Joe?” Well, I’ll tell you! I don’t want to hear about the cost of higher education decreasing because of higher federal subsidies. No. Instead, I want to hear that good, honest, decent students who academically perform in a remarkably successful manner while attending a public high school will be offered a path to a reasonably affordable bachelor’s degree in the public higher education system. What does that mean? It means that if you score at the highest levels of your high school class, then there ought to be a program for you to receive a dramatic tuition reduction (if not just free tuition) to attend the local county college for two years. Once you complete those two years, if you maintain that high level of academic achievement, then the same financial benefit (either dramatically reduced tuition rates or free tuition) should carry over to a four year public institution.
In this scenario, you can receive a college education at almost no cost, so long as you bust your butt in the classroom to earn it. As a guy who has been a student on-and-off for 30 years and as a guy who has taught in several different types of classrooms, I can tell you that there just aren’t that many students who would qualify for this type of program. So why not offer this program – and do it at the state level without getting the federal government involved – starting immediately? New Jersey used to have this type of program, but it was gutted and I don’t think it’s in existence any more.
When it comes to student loans – there isn’t much substance on either side of the election thus far.