President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney will have their fates decided on Tuesday. But whatever the outcome on November 6th, it will definitely mean a lot for college students who are struggling to pay their way through school and are dealing with crushing debt upon graduation. Many of these students will be voting for the first time in a presidential election. There’s a lot of information to dissect out there, with both candidates trying to get their last word in before people go to the polls, so here is a breakdown of Obama and Romney’s core policies on the cost of higher education.
Obama wants to expand federal aid for students, including increasing Pell Grant aid. Since taking office in 2008, he has done exactly this—now almost all student loans come directly from the federal government. He ended government subsidization of federal loans by private lenders. Obama would also grow the Perkins loans’ (need-based aid provided by the Department of Education) budget by $7 billion, according to the Associated Press.
College costs have steadily risen year-by-year since Obama stepped into office. According to the AP, in order to try and keep college costs down, Obama has proposed a one billion dollar grant competition in the style of Race to the Top, a program in which states were awarded points based on how they were improving their K-12 schools. This competition would reward schools that are actively trying to keep costs down; by controlling federal subsidies in regards to whether colleges increase tuition yearly within allowance, which incentivizes colleges to keep tuition down. Obama has also pledged that he would work to cut the inflation of tuition in half by the next decade.
In terms of student loans, the administration has an “Income-Based Repayment” program that caps repayment at 10 percent of a graduate’s monthly income. All unpaid debt would also be forgiven in 20 years, cut down by five years under George W. Bush.
Romney, first and foremost, wishes to get private lenders back into the picture and make the federal government’s role in funding college smaller, according to his campaign website. He wants to bring back bank-based lending, which Obama stopped once he took office. According to his education plan, titled “A Chance for Every Child,” Romney wants less government regulation and believes the private sector can provide students with more information before they take out loans, as well as make paying them back achievable rather than make debt forgiveness the norm.
On Pell Grants, Romney stated at the October 16th presidential debate that he wants to keep it “growing,” but “A Chance for Every Child” states that expanding federal funding for the grants only feeds the rising cost of college. It states that Pell Grant money should be refocused “on the students that need them most and place the program on a responsible long-term path that avoids future funding cliffs.”
On student loan debt, Romney’s plan would repeal Obama’s program. At a town hall meeting in March, Romney said that students should not “expect the government to forgive the debt that [they] take on.”