How the Election Will Affect Education

Robyn Tellefsen | October 23, 2012

the presidential candidates' take on collegeIf your Facebook has been clogged with political rants for the last few weeks, you’re probably dying for this election to be over and done with already. In a landscape of competing pundits, it’s hard to know what to believe.

But before you turn a deaf ear to the many voices surrounding the coming election, you might want to take a look at how the choice of President Barack Obama or Governor Mitt Romney will affect your family’s education. Here’s a breakdown of each candidate’s stance on higher education.

President Obama on Higher Education

  • Secured bipartisan support in Congress this summer for a one-year extension of the current interest rate on some federal student loans.
  • Signed new law that caps borrowers’ payments at 10 percent of their disposable income, starting this year for current students, and forgives any remaining debt after 20 years. Those engaged in public-service professions (e.g., teachers, nurses, members of the armed forces) will have any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years of on-time payments.
  • Halted bank-based lending so that the federal government makes loans directly to students; plans to continue to use the savings to increase support for community colleges and make sure the Pell Grant amount increases as scheduled next year. Increased the number of Pell Grant recipients from 6 million to 9 million since 2008.
  • Created and extended the American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth as much as $10,000 over four years of college. The college tax credit is expected to have helped an estimated 9.4 million students and families in 2011.
  • Implemented Race to the Top program, which seeks to promote an increase in the amount of college graduates in the United States.
  • Created the Community College to Career Fund, which builds up community colleges with special grants.
  • Tightened regulations on for-profit colleges through the “gainful employment rule,” which aims to ensure that programs receiving federal student aid are preparing students to succeed in the workforce. The regulation withholds grants and loans from institutions that do not provide training and credentials that translate to a “recognizable” profession. It also says that a college can qualify for more federal money only if at least 35 percent of its former students are repaying their loans, and it says that students’ annual loan repayments cannot exceed 12 percent of their earnings.
  • Put rules in place to thwart misrepresentation in recruiting and to increase state regulation of distance education.
  • Proposing to link campus-based federal aid (i.e., Perkins loans, work-study jobs, supplemental grants for low-income students) to colleges’ success in curbing tuition increases.

Governor Romney on Higher Education

  • Calls for an end to the federal government’s direct student loan program and a return to private, bank-based lending.
  • Desires to reduce federal spending to address budget deficits and to shift more government functions to the private sector.
  • Will work to make financial aid available for students who “need it most,” implying that eligibility criteria will tighten.
  • VP nominee Paul Ryan proposes freezing the maximum Pell Grant at the current amount for a decade, reducing the number of Pell recipients, and letting the tuition tax credit expire.
  • Will work to eliminate the “gainful employment” rule as well as regulations that define “credit hour,” and require states to authorize distance education programs.
  • Against affirmative action in college admissions.
  • Calls for federal funding to be denied to public colleges that charge illegal immigrants the lower tuition rates they charge to in-state students.
  • Will push to raise visa caps for highly skilled workers and grant permanent residence to immigrants with advanced degrees in math, science, and engineering.
  • As Governor of Massachusetts, implemented the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, which provided four-year free tuition scholarship to students in the top 25 percent of their high school class.

Both presidential candidates acknowledge that a traditional four-year degree is not the only path to success, and that vocational training can be beneficial. And both men agree that students and families should be provided with comprehensive, transparent information about the cost and value of college. So the question is, who do you believe is better equipped to provide the leadership needed to make the United States a leader in higher education?

Review the facts so you can make a well-informed decision on November 6. See you at the polls!


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