EDUCATION
08/24/2012 03:24 pm ET

Arne Duncan Discusses Student Loan Debt, Gripes With Romney's Education Platform On Bloomberg Radio

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was recently interviewed by “Bloomberg EDU” host Jane Stoddard Williams for a segment that will air Friday at 10 p.m. on Bloomberg Radio.

Asked to discuss a long-term solution to student loan debt, Duncan said there's "no simple answer," but spoke to the importance of “shared responsibility,” and the need for both states and universities to step up, in addition to the federal government.

Duncan commended the president and vice president’s recent leadership efforts to prevent Stafford Interest Rates from doubling, adding, “we want to continue to lead by example. But we can't begin to do this all at the federal level. We need states to continue to invest.”

The average student graduates college with around $22,000 to $27,000 in debt, though some who pursue professional degrees are not immune to six-figure debt.

Duncan notes that 40 states cut funding to higher education this past year, with states now spending about one-fifth less per public college student than was spent a decade ago.

In February, at a National Governors Association meeting, President Obama said state budget cuts have been among the “largest factors in tuition hikes at public colleges over the past decade,” repeating that colleges should be doing everything they can to keep tuition down -- a sentiment that was echoed by Duncan.

“We need states to be part of the solution and we need universities to step up as well,” he said in the interview.

Duncan also highlighted the areas where he and Mitt Romney disagree on education, and his gripes with Paul Ryan’s budget. In March, Romney said he would not promise more federal money to students and families paying for college, and not to expect the government to forgive student loan debt -- something he reiterated during a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H. Monday. Meanwhile, Ryan proposed a budget in the House that would prevent up to one million low-income students from receiving Pell grants.

“Access to college would go down,” Duncan said of the duo’s proposals. “So whether it's young children, whether it's children in the K-12 system, or whether it's access to higher education they would walk away from that funding. And I just think of education as an investment, not an expense. We have to educate our way to a better economy.”

Vouchers, which would subsidize lower-income students to attend private schools, also figure prominently in Romney’s education platform. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has said parents and children should be able to choose a different public school, which, according to Duncan, presents a host of issues.

For one, Duncan says, it is very difficult for families to be on time for school every day, when the school in question is an hour or hour and a half away. Furthermore, some parents abandon these options two or three months into the school year, leaving many potential choice seats unfilled.

“I think the goal should be to make every single school in every community a great school,” Duncan said. “That's where our collective commitment and our collective energy should be spent.”

To hear more of Duncan’s thoughts on the Common Core and teacher tenure, tune in to “Bloomberg EDU” on Bloomberg Radio at 10 p.m.

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