I’ve talked a little bit about Obama and McCain’s views on funding higher education (see here and here), but I’ve neglected the third party candidates. As it turns out, Ralph Nader has some excellent views on the crisis in education funding and what should be done about it – too bad I didn’t discover this before I voted! From Georgetown’s student newspaper, The Hoya:
Public universities should be tuition-free, as they have been for decades in Western Europe, including some countries like Finland. … If they can do it, we can do it. It should be like high school. If you want to go to Harvard or Brown, you pay whatever — although they’re going toward tuition-free because of their endowment interests, you know, they’re moving in that direction, but it should be that way. It takes about $55 billion a year, and we spend $80 billion in up-front and back-up costs keeping soldiers in Western Europe and East Asia, 60 years after World War II — doing what? Who are they defending? Japan? South Korea, Germany, England, France — against who? Inner Mongolia? Moldova? So if you bring them back, and then a lot of the soldiers can get an education, too.
So that’s it. Now, absent that, you’ve got to expand your student loans. They should be completely done by the Department of Education. There should be no Sallie Mae, no commercial student loan companies that gouge you, rip you off and do it, you know, do it after you’ve signed on …And by the way, you know, these student loans companies wine and dine …, a lot of your loan officials — student loan officials, like Duke and Columbia. They had to resign. They take them to junkets, wine and dine, so that they can get an exclusive — actually put their people on campus
By the end of the night (hopefully), we’ll know whether our next president is going to be Barack Obama or John McCain. No matter who wins, the next President is going to face several challenges in making sure that college is affordable for everyone. The Higher Ed Watch blog lists the federal budget deficit, the continuing credit crunch, a budget shortfall in the Pell Grant program, and expiring student aid programs and benefits as major obstacles to each candidate’s plans for making college more affordable. One important program set to expire is the interest rate reduction for subsidized federal student loans.
The interest rate reduction that Congress approved for subsidized federal student loans is due to expire at the end of the 2011-12 academic year. In other words, under current law, loans issued that year will have a fixed interest rate of 3.4 percent for the life of the loan, but loans issued the following year will carry a fixed rate of 6.8 percent. The new president will have to decide whether he supports extending the 3.4 percent interest rate. Doing so could cost as much as $3 billion a year. Of course, allowing student loan interest rates to double could be politically risky, no matter the costs or public policy implications. [At Higher Ed Watch, we believe that policymakers should consider expanding the existing student loan interest rate reduction instead. That proposal would be less costly and better targeted on recent college graduates with burdensome levels of debt.]
Today, MTV will air a program, taped on Saturday, in which they sat down with Senator Obama and asked him questions sent to them by viewers (they offered McCain the same opportunity, but he declined). Obama talked about a wide variety of issues from gay marriage to civil liberties, but two of the questions directly addressed college affordability and student loan repayment:
Sway: The first question is from joi0924, and she’s from San Antonio: “The young people today cannot afford to go to college because of the cost of tuition. What are your plans as our next president when it comes to making it easier for young people to attend college?” Read more…
Congratulations to Ben Redmond, the winner of Got Tuition’s video contest about student debt. Check out his video here, and read his Huffington Post blog entry on student loans and the presidential election here.
The New York Times had an interesting article on Oct. 29th on the differences between Obama and McCain’s positions on student loans. To summarize:
Obama’s Plan: $4,000 tax credit for tuition in return for 100 hours of community service (available to all students, even those whose families do not make enough to pay taxes); Add $1.5 billion to the Pell Grant program
McCain’s Plan: Publicly encourage colleges to slow tuition increases; Improve the student loan market to add competion and more flexible payment options; Increase Pell Grant so that it funds the cost of in-state tuition at public universities
Honestly, I like both of their plans. The article has some pretty good analysis (read: better than I could do, so I’m not going to try) on the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Side note: The article also reports that the Obamas just finished paying off their student loans in 2004. Yikes.