President Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention touched on education Thursday night and touted his efforts to increase Pell Grants for low-income students. He also unveiled a new goal for addressing the rising cost of college.
"Help give 2 million workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job. Help us work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next 10 years. We can meet that goal together. You can choose that future for America."
Obama also made sure to take a swipe at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his advice on affording higher education.
"If you can't afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent's advice and 'borrow money from your parents,'" Obama said. "You know what? That's not who we are. That's not what this country's about."
Certainly there are stark differences in how the two parties are approaching the student debt crisis, as shown in their national party platforms. Republicans call for an end to government student loans, Democrats have touted their 2010 reform package increasing federal financial aid.
However, when it comes to the president's plan to bring college tuition down, it isn't clear how he plans to accomplish it.
Experts attribute skyrocketing tuition to a dramatic budget cuts from the state legislatures. It happened under Democrats as well as Republicans over the past 30 years, in conservative and liberal states.
Tuition has grown nearly five times faster than inflation since 1985, and about twice as much as health care costs, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the stimulus, helped replenish state coffers during the Great Recession, but this trend of gutting public higher education started in the 1980's.
There are misplaced priorities among public universities as well. For example, college presidents and administrators continue to get six-figure raises, even as students get hit with double-digit tuition hikes. Not to mention lavish rec centers and major athletic programs which operate in the red.
The president has called for a Race to the Top-styled program to reward colleges which keep their costs down, but without Congressional action, that plan has gone no where. Obama sought to withhold federal money from colleges who fail to remain affordable, but higher ed leaders and Republicans spoke out against it. Although, Republicans proposed a very similar idea in 2003.
Obama has also pushed to continue increasing the Pell Grant to help low-income students attend college, but that too was stopped by a Congressional stalemate.
Still, the progress Obama has made most significantly with the 2010 Student Aid and Financial Responsibility Act, was highlighted by Bill Clinton Wednesday as something "every voter needs to know about."
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