Obama to assist higher education

If you’re a college student and still undecided on which presidential candidate to vote for, take a look at President Barack Obama’s and Gov. Mitt Romney’s stances on higher education and your indecision should disappear.

“Higher education can’t be a luxury. It’s an economic imperative that every American should be able to afford,” Obama said to a passionate crowd of his supporters in Virginia as he announced his re-election campaign.

Compare what the president said about higher education to the statement his opponent made, and you will see a clear distinction between the two.

“I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity where everyone has a fair shot [and] they get as much education as they can afford,” Romney said at a campaign stop in Virginia on June 27.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average college student earns $14,400 per year. Since Rider’s tuition is $32,820 for full-time students, if the average college student were to attend Rider and receive only as much education as he or she could afford, the student would only be taught for 43.88 percent of the academic year or almost one semester. That is, of course, just the cost of tuition, not room and board, textbooks or any other necessary add-on expenses. This is also assuming the student spent his or her entire income on education and no other essentials such as clothing or car expenses.

Which would you rather have: education at an affordable price or as much education as your little wallets can scrounge up? Even if you had enough money to pay for four expensive years at Rider, why would you do so when Obama can make it so much more budget-friendly?

The rising cost of college tuition can be somewhat ameliorated by federal loans and Pell Grants. During the past summer, Obama led a successful fight to extend the federal loan interest rate of 3.4 percent when it was about to double. Romney was noticeably silent on the issue, and his campaign website, mittromney.com, does not lay out a coherent plan to help students pay for higher education. It only mentions vague policy plans like “welcome private sector participation instead of pushing it away” and “replace burdensome regulation with innovation and competition.” Given Romney’s track record, “burdensome regulation” could be any regulation at all.

The president’s plan to make college more affordable is already being implemented.  In 2011, Obama established the American Opportunity Tax Credit which “helped 9.4 million students and families afford higher education and doubled funding for Pell Grants,” according to barackobama.com. The president’s website allows you to compare his education policy to the current Romney one (which is always subject to change without warning) and also gives a state-by-state outlook. New Jersey students and families received on average a $1,700 tax credit in 2011 and are expected to save up to $10,000 over the next four years. While this does not address the issue of rising tuition costs, it should be noted that no government official can control the price of education; there is no magic button that Obama can press that will decrease tuition expenses.

Romney’s policy toward Pell Grants is confusing and vague, much like all of his positions.  Before he became the Republican nominee, Romney supported his now-running mate Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R- Wis.) controversial budget that significantly slashed funding for Pell Grants. The month after he chose Ryan as his running mate, Romney said he supported maintaining the level of funding for Pell Grants in its current state. At the second debate, Romney stunned everyone when he said that he wanted to grow the federal Pell Grant program.

Obama is moving in the right direction by making grants and loans accessible and easing the burden of tuition costs. Romney’s plan is probably very coherent; the problem is no one is allowed to know what it is. His constant flip-flopping and confusion is unsettling for so many young Americans who need a good education to secure a job but don’t have the necessary funds to pay for it.

Winston Churchill described Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key.” Romney’s stance on education is all this and more except there is no need for a key. All you have to do is vote for President Obama on Nov. 6 for a future of affordable educational prosperity.

The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News.This week’s editorial was written by Joe Petrizzo.

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