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Informed choices: How will your vote affect your education?

by Stacey Czerwinski

    Much like the presidential election of 2008, this year’s election features college students as a major swing vote. One issue impacting the student vote is higher education financial policy. Where do the candidates intentions lie in regard to student debt repayment? And what does it mean for our future?
    The fundamental dividing factor in President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney’s federal student aid policy lies less with drastic change, and more with restructure.
    Obama’s proposal seeks to permanently secure the initiatives and policies he instituted during his time in office. A few of the potential alterations he includes are an expansion of campus-based aid programs, including the federal work study program, as well as the Federal Perkins Loan Program. Under this proposal, colleges that are able to retain low pricing and limit net tuition increases will incur a higher eligibility for increased funding. Also, Obama is in full support of preserving the Pell Grant program, which grants students money, with no repayment.
    Romney would make the Pell Grant discretionary per college or university, making the program an easy cut in years to come.
    Romney’s stance on student loan repayment centralizes itself on repealing a number of the Obama-implemented initiatives. Such initiative includes the income-based repayment plan, which allows individuals with financial hardship to lower their monthly payments to accommodate their needs. He is also in stark opposition to loan forgiveness programs, which alleviate loan repayments entirely to people in certain public servant roles, as well as individuals who meet specified financial criteria.
    Another part of the Romney reform includes placing private lenders back into the market for new federal education loans, which Obama eliminated during his term as middlemen, allowing the government to adopt their role as lenders.
   What does this mean for students, past, present and future?
    Under the Romney plan, it could potentially mean less aid for students and more difficulty with repayment for those out of school. Romney operates his approach under the belief that an increase in student aid ultimately produces an increase in the cost of a college education.
    Obama approaches the rising cost and inflation through a rewards program. Through his strategy, higher educational institutions are rewarded for affordability and retention, preserving the amount of aid for most college and university students.
    The umbrella issue that both candidates agree upon is the need for some restraint on the skyrocketing cost of a college education. These issues will undoubtedly affect this generation in particular, provided the weighty necessity for a college degree in order to provide for a handsome resume when applying for employment.
    When casting your ballot in this year’s election, bear in mind that you are also casting a ballot for higher educational institutions.

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