"Are you any better off?" resonated throughout Mitt Romney's Republican nomination acceptance speech Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Florida. There it was reported that the education system fell in rank from No. 5 to No. 11 this year due to budget cuts and stalling national test scores. Romney's talking points were as robotic as ever, focusing on the economy, jobs creation and his character as a leader.
Early in the evening education got a quick mention from former Florida governor Jeb Bush. "We must make sure that our children and grandchildren are ready for the world we are shaping today," said Bush. "That's the essence of education -- students getting a chance at a future."
As a graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa and a former public school teacher and adjunct college professor in the bay area, I kept asking myself, "Where is the higher education voice at the Republican National Convention this week?" And, possibly, an even more important question, "What does the Republican party plan to do about the student loan debt crisis that has been touted by some as the next looming financial crisis in America?"
Earlier this summer the student loan interest rate crisis was averted temporarily when "Congress approved a $127 billion transportation and student loan package to enact changes that were long-championed by the Obama administration," as reported by US News. The possible skyrocketing increase of student loan interest rates created large groups of students rallying together in protests all over the country. Awareness of this complicated national financial problem and what to do about it is not being visibly addressed, but can be felt by many students trying to earn a college degree today.
In conjunction with the Grand Old Party strolling into Tampa this week, college students were coming back to school and settling into a new academic year bringing with them an added layer of student loan stress. Throughout RNC week I met with college students and staff at three schools in the Tampa Bay area: University of Tampa, the University of South Florida and Hillsborough Community College, Ybor City Campus.
In my upcoming higher education blog series I'll speak openly with this next generation of voters -- often referred to as millennials -- who will ultimately be our future leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and represent a portion of the independent undecided vote in Florida that the Republican Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket will need to sway in order to win this election.