Normally, we here at Club Thrifty try to stay out of your political grill. However, with the third and final Presidential Debate of the 2012 election taking place tonight, we couldn’t pass up on this guest post by Jon Haver of paymystudentloans.com! So, we hope you enjoy our debate before the debate. If you are interested in guest posting, please read our guest posting policy.
“We were so young, so in love, and so in debt,” recalled Michelle Obama at the Democratic Convention in September. Apparently the Obamas, like many of us, had to deal with a mountain of student debt with monthly repayments that came to more than their mortgage. President Obama, infers the First Lady, knows what it means to struggle with student loans. Governor Romney with his background, she also infers, will have trouble empathizing with the current issues facing American students. But that is the Democrats’ take on Mr. Romney’s experience with student loans.
Both Obama and Romney are desperately seeking the support of young voters in the run up to the election so some of the key talking points are, understandably:
- access to student loans
- forgiveness for student loan debt
- cost of an education
Should the government intervene or leave the student loan market to reign?
The battle between the two sides boils down to the same old Republican/Democratic divide. Should the government intervene or leave the market to reign? Is fair distribution of the current pie preferable to everyone having a bigger slice of a bigger pie? Should the government help students or should students be encouraged to help themselves?
Mitt Romney’s Argument
Mitt Romney’s policies obviously tend toward the latter. In these days when it’s no longer possible to “work your way through college” (unless you’ve got a part-time job as Bill Gates), Romney sees greater market competition as the key to reducing the burden of student debt. He wants private as well as government lenders to offer loans to students in an effort to increase competition and drive down interest rates. He has also asserted that students should save, shop around and borrow money from their parents in order to go to college.
President Obama’s Response
Predictably, these comments were quickly set upon by Romney’s Democratic rivals with Obama spelling it out in a speech at Capital University, “I want to make sure everybody understands not everybody has parents who have the money to lend. You know, that may be news to some folks, but it’s the truth.”
President Obama’s Argument
Throughout his time in office Obama has worked to increase government support for those seeking higher education. He has extended Pell grants for low-income college students, meaning that 9.3 million students now receive financial support in comparison to 6.2 million in 2009 (Senate Committee Report). The grants themselves are also more substantial. “We’ve expanded Pell Grants for millions of people,” said Obama. “We did it by taking $60 billion that was going to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, and we said, ‘Let’s just cut out the middleman. Let’s give the money directly to students.’ And as a consequence, we’ve seen millions of young people be able to afford college.”
Mitt Romney’s Response
Mitt Romney, whilst not threatening to take away Pell grants, sees things differently. He may have had a point when he argued that “flooding colleges with federal dollars only serves to drive tuition higher”. Romney blames the lack of free market forces in education for rising tuition. Under Obama’s watch, without any incentive to keep fees down, universities have continued to increase the cost of tuition dramatically. This has dissuaded many of the young people who Obama supposedly champions, from pursuing a college education. Romney argues that if prospective college students had more access to information about the quality of the schools they plan to attend and the likely fiscal rewards of any future job possibilities, then universities would have to be more competitive and offer better value for money.
How Will Each Control The Cost of Tuition?
Obama, in response to rising tuition, has mooted the idea of price controls which would limit the loans available for attendance at a particular college if that college continues to raise fees disproportionately. He also wants to introduce a “Pay As You Earn” plan which caps monthly student loan repayments at 10% of a graduate’s monthly income and has proposed the idea of a Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program, which would write off student debt after ten years of payments for graduates who work to serve the public good, for instance as teachers. But can Obama deliver on his promises? Romney thinks not: “I’m not going to promise all sorts of free stuff that I know you’re going to end up paying for. What I want to do is give you a great job so you’ll be able to pay it back yourself. And I want to get the government off your back, so you can keep more of what you earned.”
So the battle continues, what is your opinion…
Which candidate do you believe will be the best for college students struggling to afford an education? Pleae leave a comment below! After you do, vote on who you think will be a better President for students with a lot of debt – Vote Here & See The Results!
Jon Haver graduated college with $22,500 in student loan debt. He paid off his debt in 3 years, all while still continuing to live a full life. To read more about his story and his advice, you can find his website at paymystudentloans.com.