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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The candidates on college

    ’08 contenders offer glimpses of higher education policy

    With two trying wars in the Middle East, polar ice caps threatening to melt and destroy the world, and rumors of the impending demise of health care and Social Security, higher education is far from the most important issue in the 2008 presidential election. But between sounding off on popular issues like terrorism and immigration, the pack of 2008 presidential candidates have offered glimpses – some vague and some very clear – of their proposed college policies.

    Stumping in Iowa last week, Republican candidate Mitt Romney suggested that student financial aid should be tied to the type of job students decide to take on after graduation. In an interview with The Associated Press, Romney said, “”I like the idea of linking the level of support that we’re able to provide to young people going to college to the contributions they’re going to make to our society.”” However, he has no plans on how to calculate the social value of individual jobs and assign adequate compensation. Nor does Romney seem to realize that we already have a system that determines the value of particular professions – the job market. But his other policies are more sensible – including support for merit-based scholarships and tax cuts to make it easier for families to save for college.

    GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani is disquietingly mum about his plans to promote college education. His platform focuses mostly on primary and secondary schools, but a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that his past policies as mayor of New York City indicate a commitment to more rigorous admission standards. Policy on financial aid is notably absent.

    At the back of the pack, proposals are wackier. Crusty Fred Thompson is just as fuzzy on higher education as he is with the rest of his platform. He offers no clear policies or positions on funding universities or boosting financial aid, but he does want to fight political correctness on college campuses and make it easier for students to carry firearms in the classroom – with appropriate weapons licenses, of course – to promote school safety. Surely, these are the two most important issues facing students today. And of course, the ever-dramatic Ron Paul wants to abolish the Department of Education altogether, eliminating all the student aid programs it oversees.

    Democrats are a little clearer on college, and leading candidate Hillary Clinton may have the smartest proposal of all. Besides raising Pell Grant awards and doubling college tax credits, she hopes to streamline the application process for student aid by scrapping the annoying and redundant FAFSA application – often more complicated than a tax return – and allowing students to apply for financial aid by checking a box on their income tax paperwork. This is the brightest proposal in a bunch of otherwise fairly undistinguished ideas.

    Her closest competitor, Barack Obama, hopes to pump up Pell Grants and ban private companies from offering loans to students, while John Edwards, ever the populist, wants the federal government to pay for “”College for Everyone,”” covering the one-year costs of tuition and books for students who take college-prep courses in high school.

    Presidential candidates universally tout the importance of education in keeping America globally competitive and praise universities as institutions that should be open to everyone. Many of them also hope to win the votes of college students. If they really hope to get students interested, most of them should consider focusing further on funding higher education.

    OPINIONS BOARD: Editorials are determined by the Wildcat Opinions Board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Sarah Keeler, Connor Mendenhall and Jeremiah Simmons.

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