Posted In: Educator Voices, Election 2012, Higher Education, Massachusetts, Uncategorized

What we learned about Mitt

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By Donnie McGee, professor of English at Bristol (Mass.) Community College and vice president of the Massachusetts Community College Council.

Fall elections are just around the corner. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are in a close race for the presidency, but with two very different agendas. Romney’s higher education plans translate into more privatization, less federal funding, and diminished access for our students. In contrast, Obama plans to invest considerably in public colleges nationwide. He knows they can provide pathways to prosperity for everyone. As a community college professor from Romney’s home state, I know first-hand what Romney’s education policy looks like.

Community colleges are the last bastion of hope and opportunity for millions of Americans. Obama knows these colleges can transform lives and revitalize communities, and he has pledged billions of dollars in support of these institutions. Romney does not get this.

When Romney was Governor in Massachusetts, students and educators struggled under his leadership. Romney failed to fund public higher education effectively. As college enrollments went up, state funding went down. Educators did more with less. And students paid the price. College fees rose by 63 percent while Romney was in office.

Romney crafted the state budget with a singular resolve: to streamline government and reduce state spending. He sought little input from agencies or elected officials and showed no concern regarding the costs in terms of services terminated or jobs taken away. His spending cuts targeted public education and those who were most vulnerable – not unlike the Ryan Budget he now supports. Romney did not consider that government has a responsibility to serve all the people. He did not take into account the human consequences of impoverished lives and shattered dreams.

For Romney, reducing funding to public higher education was, and is, an appropriate way to make government work. He also would eliminate the recently enacted safeguards on student loans and for-profit institutions, simply to steer more money into private control. He fails to understand that a public education system that serves everyone well is a prerequisite for an economy that will effectively serve the nation.

In the past three years, Obama did not accomplish all that we had hoped for, but the nation is moving in the right direction after a cataclysmic recession. For educators who are sitting on the political sidelines, consider the Romney alternative. So much is at stake here. Quality public higher education should be accessible and affordable for everyone. Obama knows that. Romney does not. This fall keep the American Dream alive for our students, too.

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