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.