I think we can all agree that education is important for a variety of reasons: better jobs, higher pay, healthier lifestyle, but it’s also important to our society as a whole. An educated population enriches the society, drives the progress of our country, and is one of our nation’s biggest assets on the world stage. As the election grows closer, it’s time to look at how President Barack Obama and candidate Mitt Romney feel about education and what we can expect from them, if elected.
President Obama has established himself as a supporter of education and has worked toward improving access to, and accountability in, education. His Healthcare and Education Reconciliation act signed in 2010 invested $40 billion in the Pell Grant program, and he ensured that students paying back their loans won’t have to pay more than 10% of their discretionary income. He freed up $68 billion dollars by making all federal student loans direct loans instead of subsidizing the lending institutions. His commitment to education helps students from before they begin school through the completion of their degree.
On the other hand, although Mitt Romney did push to keep student loan interest rates where they are, he has made comments that make one wonder about his commitment to education for all.
He supports Rep. Paul Ryan’s “A Roadmap for America’s Future” which would cut Pell Grant eligibility and make Pell Grants discretionary rather than mandatory. The Pell Grant program would be cut by $170 billion over the next decade. It would allow the student loan interest rate to double, and would end student loan interest subsidies for students in school. All of these proposals would hurt students from lower-income families.
These kinds of policies would lead to an increasingly divided society. His statements that students should “get as much education as they can afford,” or that students should turn to their “parents to fund their education,” are clear indications that he’s talking to the affluent. He seems hopelessly out of touch with what’s happening in mainstream America.
Many families are wondering how they can hang onto their home. Paying for their child’s education isn’t just a hardship, it’s impossible. Is he saying that only the rich, or those who can afford it, should be educated? Or that a crippling debt load is an acceptable risk for students to take on to obtain their degree? Or maybe he means that parents should bankrupt themselves to educate their children?
I’m not sure if Mr. Romney believes that supporting the one-year pass on hiking student loan rates was enough to get college-age students to vote for him or if he simply doesn’t care.
In my opinion, a society where only the rich are educated feels like a big step in the wrong direction. In this election, as in any, it’s important that you vote for what you believe. I believe that education is important not only for us, but our society as a whole.