Obama Wants to Help College Students; McCain Says Students on Their Own

The two candidates couldn’t differ more on any hot-button issue you toss in front of them. Their positions on supporting American college students is also quite the contrast, as are their individual college experiences. Obama attended Columbia and Harvard, and only recently paid off his student loan debt; McCain attended the U.S. Naval Academy, which was free.

Amongst a crashing economy where college tuition support is harder to come by, and college tuition is skyrocketing faster than inflation, one candidate is in favor of the government lending support to college students, while the other thinks that you should cram in a night job between an 18-hour class schedule- plus labs and study groups. While they agree that college tuition isn’t affordable to most Americans and that the process to attain that aid is convuluted- the similarities part there.

McCain’s message when it comes to increased tuition is, ‘You’re on your own,’” says Michael Dannenberg, senior fellow with the New America Foundation and not a member of Obama’s campaign. “Obama’s message to families is, ‘We’ll give you more financial aid to help you with college costs, but your kids are going to have to help others.'”

Obama’s plan is more detailed than McCains, albeit with a larger price tag. His position is that it’s the government’s job to support college students persuing a degree. He’s not giving it away- in exchange for 100 hours of community service each year, the government will offer students a $4,000 tax break. McCain has put focus on making the financial aid system more efficient, but does not intend to increase its breadth. He wants parents to be more informed and says more money can be available if we eliminate wasteful spending.

Regarding Pell Grants, Obama has made a promise to fund them in a way that keeps up with the demands of tuition increases (which the government is currently not able to do). McCain’s camp says they aren’t making any direct promises, but if a need arises and there’s room in the budget, they’ll consider increasing funds. No matter which candidate is in office, to keep up, $6 billion will be needed next year to support demand.

McCain and Obama do not agree on how the $60 billion in student loan money from the government should be managed and distributed either. Obama would like to see the current system of direct government aid and lending through subsidized banks eliminated, and instead have all student loans paid directly by the government. McCain prefers the current system and those who support this idea say the government would have trouble managing it solely on its own. Obama would also like to see the FAFSA eliminated; and just this week Education Secretary Margaret Spellings presented a new form that eliminated 74 of the 100 questions on the current form.

Your vote does count – and if you want either of these or future candidates to hear your needs, casting a vote is one way to ensure you’re heard.

6 Responses to “Obama Wants to Help College Students; McCain Says Students on Their Own”

  1. Independent_Profit_Center says:

    It was interesting.

  2. john says:

    I support Obama’s position on Pell Grant expansion, McCain is just not thinking when it comes to Pell, however…

    There has been a student loan system in place since the 1960’s called FFEL. It was started as part of the Higher Education Act. It is administered by banks, guarantors and others. With the arrival of the Clinton administration, a new government run program called Direct Lending was established. A democratic White House and Congress thinking the government can do it better. Although FFEL lost market share initially to Direct (Direct never higher than ~30%), FFEL has gained a substantial amount of loan volume back in the last ten years. Why? Because the Government is not a service organization. Schools need to run like a business and expect services, many of which are required by Federal regulations to be provided to students, parents and financial aid administrators. These include financial literacy awareness, default rate awareness and management, default aversion programs, early withdrawl counseling to keep kids in school, loan rehabilitation services to keep the loan from ultimately being written off by the Government, technology support for strapped financial aid offices, and much more.
    A lot of big four year universities tend to stay with Direct because they have the staff, technology and capability to manage their loan portfolios and serve their students. Most other post-secondary education institutions do not, and rely on the for profit and non-profit FFEL players to fill in the gap where Direct cannot. Compare the fees, compare the default rates (if Direct would ever produce one) and go ask schools what they think and you will find that Obama’s plan to eliminate FFEL lending will be a disaster. On top of what is already going on with the financial markets and trillion dollar federal bailout packages, adding student lending to the mix is insanity. I for one would not support what Obama would do to FFEL for the sake of my three children.

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