Candidate policies conflict on higher education

Though the presidential debates, the first of which will take place Wednesday night, will be held on college campuses, higher education issues may take a back seat to issues such as economic growth rates, job creation and social issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

Susan MacManus, political analyst and political science professor, said one reason that former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama may be mum is that they have little to report on.

When it comes to education, the differences between the candidates are small, she said.

With 36 days until general elections, The Oracle looks at the candidates stances on higher education issues.

Pell Grants
According to A Chance for Every Child, Romneys education plan, as a result of the expanding entitlement mentality, the grant award the foundation of the federal investment in student financial aid is on unsure financial footing. A Romney administration would thus refocus grant dollars on the students that need them most and place the program on a responsible long-term path that avoids future funding cliffs and last-minute funding patches.

Though Romney has since distanced himself from his running mate Rep. Paul Ryans budget he introduced earlier this year, Ryans proposed budget will cut Pell Grants by $170 billion over the next 10 years.

A Chance for Every Child states that a Romney administration would make clear that the federal government will no longer write a blank check to universities to reward their tuition increases, and by supporting institutions that are pursuing innovative operating models to drive down costs.

University Accountability
Romneys plan states that a Romney administration will eliminate unnecessary data collection requirements and partner with existing private-sector entities to create consumer-friendly data on the success of specific institutions of higher education. Students should make decisions with full understanding of data points such as completion and persistence, loan repayment rates, and future earnings. In turn, these ratings can be used by private lenders to evaluate the risks of lending to students at these institutions, creating incentives for schools to focus on factors related to student success.

Student Loan Debt
Though Romneys platform has not addressed the issue of loan debt, in a New Hampshire speech in late August he said It is very tempting as a politician to say, You know what, I will just give you some money. The government is just going to give you some money and pay back your loans for you … Im not going to promise all sorts of free stuff that I know youre going to end up paying for. What I want to do is give you a great job so youll be able to pay it back yourself.

Pell grants
According to, the President has doubled support for Pell Grants, increasing the maximum grant award to $5,635 and expanding the number of recipients by 50 percent, providing college access to millions of additional low-income and middle-class students across the country.

According to a blueprint plan released by the White House in January, the Obama administration plans to financially reward universities that set responsible tuition policy, provide good value to students and families and serve low-income families.

According to an article in the Washington Post, colleges that dont do well by these measures may stand to lose federal funding.

University Accountability
According to, the Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have created a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet and College Scorecard that requires colleges and universities to provide data in efforts to help students better understand the type and amount of aid they qualify for and easily compare aid packages offered by different colleges and universities and make it easier for students and families to choose a college that is best suited to their goals, finances, and needs.

Student Loan Debt
Over the summer, Obama urged Congress to keep the federal student loan interest rates from doubling for one year. Obama also signed a student loan reform bill that caps loan repayment rates at 10 percent of earned income.

Reporting by James Warmington and Divya Kumar