by Félix Pérez
With recent reports showing student debt and college tuition rising yet again last year, students are looking closely at the approaches President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will take to address the issues, and they have serious doubts about Romney.
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“Just thinking about the debt that I and my peers will have to pay back, it’s really overwhelming,” Natalie Passarelli, a senior at Ohio State University and a future educator, told Education Votes. “I don’t know if Romney realizes how insulting it is when he says students should ‘get as much education as they can afford’.”
Passarelli shared her views in response to a new report that found that college students who graduated in the class of 2011 did so with an average student loan debt of $26,600, an increase of more than $1,100 from 2010. The report by the Institute for College Access and Success, which includes a state-by-state interactive map, revealed that two-thirds of 2011 graduates had student loan debt.
Students are getting squeezed on both ends. The College Board Advocacy and Policy Center recently announced that tuition and fees at four-year public universities rose 4.8 percent this year, to $8,655.
Faith Rivera, a future educator and a senior at Marywood University in Pennsylvania, was offended by Romney’s campaign trail advice to students worried about paying tuition. “Borrow money if you have to from your parents,” said Romney.
Rivera told Education Votes:
I can’t tell you how disgusted I am with Romney for telling us to just ask for money from our parents. I pay for my college education entirely with loans. My parents can barely afford their own financial responsibilities.
As recently as last week’s presidential debate, Romney said he would “keep our Pell Grant program growing” and “make it easier for kids to afford college.”
The problem, however, is Romney’s full-throated support (“bold and exciting”) for the budget plan written by his running mate, Paul Ryan. The Ryan plan would cut Pell Grants for more than 9 million students by $1,000.
Similarly, Romney’s tax proposal would result in a $2,000 tax hike on average middle-class families with children. Romney has also said he will repeal a law championed by President Obama that removed banks as middle men in federally guaranteed loans. Banks made billions of dollars in profits off of taxpayers, money which was directed by the new law to students.
In addition, President Obama:
- Halted fraudulent recruitment practices used by for-profit diploma mills to swindle veterans.
- Made it easier for more than a million students with federal student loans to cap their monthly payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income.
- Extended Pell Grants to 3 million more students.
- Signed a tax credit worth up to $10,000 to help middle class families cover the cost of tuition.
“We all know, especially with student debt and student loans, we’re going to be hurt if a presidential candidate has the wrong policy,” said Albert DeLaere, a junior at the University of Central Florida. DeLaere, who is studying to be a teacher, told Education Votes he was able to stay in school this year because of President Obama’s successful fight this summer to stop student loan interest rates from doubling.