Today’s college students are now in the midst of the first election they have a chance to vote in. Out of all the issues that are discussed and debated in this election, the one that affects us the most is education.
Higher education is almost a given for students graduating from high school, but the price of education has long been a major obstacle. With the high price of education, there are some people who can’t afford a degree. However, many students avoid paying full-price for college by taking out loans to cover the cost. The problem with taking out loans is that you have to pay those loans back once you graduate. When graduates leave school and get jobs, only to have a large portion of their paychecks used to pay off student loans, they have less money to buy things to put money back into the economy and create jobs.
President Barack Obama is aware of this, and knows the importance of having an educated country. He has fought hard to make it possible for people to afford college. Obama has set a goal to stop the rapid growth of tuition cost, cutting it in half in the next decade. The President has strengthened the Pell Grant program by preventing Federal Loan interest rates from doubling for over 7 million students. He also capped federal student loan repayments at 10% of total income.
President Obama increased national funding to the Pell Grant program by 95%, helping nearly 10 million students, 133,763 of which are here in Massachusetts. On the other hand, Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican contender, would slash Pell Grants by $830 for every student in Massachusetts. In short, Governor Romney would undo what Obama did to help college students financially.
The President also established the American Opportunity Tax Credit which provided students and families with a tax credit worth $1,900 nationally, and $2,100 here in Massachusetts in 2011. That tax credit could be used to pay for college so students can take out fewer loans. However, Romney disagrees with the President on this issue too; he doesn’t believe there should be tax credit for college expenses and would let it expire for 9.4 million students and families, 195,000 of which are here in Massachusetts.
The President is also committed to investing in community colleges. He pledged $2 billion to strengthen community colleges across the country to provide education and career-training programs and plans to provide 2 million workers for jobs today, 42,000 in Massachusetts. Romney opposes this plan and would cut 129,000 work-study positions nationally, and 7,170 in Massachusetts. In his first year as governor, Mitt Romney cut funding for community colleges here in Massachusetts by 17%.
But Romney’s plan is simple; as he once said, “Take a risk, get the education, borrow money, if you have to, from your parents.”
As college students, we all know what it’s like to stress about college expenses. The President understands our needs and places enough importance on education to help more people obtain one and to make it more affordable. An educated workforce is a strong workforce, and with the opportunities that the President has been providing, we are improving.
In the words of Morgan Freeman, “There are still challenges to meet: children to educate, a middle class to rebuild, but the last thing we should do, is turn back now.”