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Where Romney and Obama stand on education

Higher education is becoming increasingly necessary and also more expensive. CSU’s resident undergraduate tuition increased from $4,424 in 2008 to $6,307 in 2011, reflecting a nationwide tuition hike trend.

“The education system has never been perfect and always needs attention,” said Holly Martin, a sophomore health and exercise science major. “Make it more affordable. A lot of people aren’t lucky enough to have their parents pay for their education.”


Student loan debt reached $1 trillion and exceeded credit card debt in June. Students are primarily concerned about funding for and access to higher education during a difficult economy.

“Everyone says to ‘Follow your heart and do what you love,’ but you can’t take out $100,000 loans [and expect to be fine],” said Brendan Costello, a senior mathematics major at Western Washington University. “For a lot of my friends college is just something you do after high school. They’re not really thinking long-term.”

Here is a breakdown of the candidates’ stances on higher education:

What they said
“Since we live in a 21st century economy that increasingly demands a college education, efforts at improvement can’t stop at high school’s end. Students must have access to a wide variety of options that will give them the skills they need for successful careers,” Romney said at the Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit in Washington D.C. May 23, 2012.

Achieve “meaningful reform:”

  • Strengthen and simplify the financial aid system by consolidating programs and providing students with financial need information
  • Reverse nationalization of student loans and return to bank-based student lending
  • Refocus Pell Grant dollars to those who need them the most


  • Replace regulation with innovation and competition— new education models, emphasize skill attainment, support research and development
  • Stem rate of increase in grant funding to go with the rate of inflation and hold down rate of tuition/fee increases

“College isn’t just the best investment you can make in your future — it is the best investment that you can make in your country’s future. … As long as those young people are willing to put in the work, as long as you’re willing to study hard and take advantage of this opportunity, then we’ve got to make sure it’s there for you,” Obama said at an April 24, 2012 speech at CU.

Make college more “affordable, accessible, and attainable:”

  • Invest in community colleges to provide education and career-training
  • Reform federal campus-based aid programs to shift aid away from colleges that don’t keep net tuition down towards those that make tuition affordable, provide good value, and serve needy students
  • Increase college graduates and contain cost of tuition by rewarding states willing to systematically change their higher education policies and practices

What they did


  • 2004: John and Abigail Adams Scholarship
    • Merit-based scholarship for top 25 percent scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System
    • Provides full tuition to a state university/college


  • 2010: Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act
    • Federal government took over student loan business
    • Doubled funding for Pell Grants, raised maximum award to $5,635 and expanded number of recipients by 50 percent
  • 2009: American Opportunity Tax Credit
    • Student tax credit worth $10,000 over four years
  • 2011: Pay As You Earn plan
    • Capped monthly student loan repayments at 10% monthly income

All information provided by campaigns, speeches and public records.

Politics Beat Reporter Kate Winkle can be reached at

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