Even with financial aid, it can be tough to pay for tuition. It’s no surprise, then, that the rising cost of college has become a major point in the 2012 presidential campaign.
Though President Barack Obama and the Republican nominees have offered solutions of varying practicality, Mitt Romney’s suggestion on Monday at a town hall meeting in Youngstown, Ohio, shows an alarming lack of foresight on his part. Essentially, Romney said this: Want the government to pay for college? Enlist. And if you don’t want to do that, good luck finding a scholarship.
This is a man who has never served in the military — he was deferred from the draft for several years to conduct missionary work and attend college. Yet he is telling students that they should sign up as if it is a casual commitment.
For many students, military service isn’t an option for religious or moral reasons. Even students without such objections shouldn’t have to make a life-altering commitment just to receive an education.
His other suggestion is to “shop around” for an affordable college. This is a valid point. Students should know and understand the implications of taking on student loans. Going to that dream college may not be entirely prudent if you’re going to graduate thousands of dollars in debt, especially if there are less expensive options that provide a comparable education.
But the promotion of fiscal responsibility does not constitute a comprehensive plan to improve higher education in America. Romney failed to address the real issue.
Yes, students should make wise financial decisions when selecting a college. And yes, if students perform well, they can potentially receive a scholarship.
The fact remains that college tuition is at an all-time high. Rather than telling students to choose paths Romney himself did not follow, he should focus on reducing the overall cost of higher education.
Education is a critical factor for economic development. Considering the country’s current economic state, Romney’s failure to offer a plan to help Americans pay for college is incredibly short-sighted. The average student debt load is more than $25,000 and total student debt in America is more than $1 trillion. Though students shouldn’t expect free education, these numbers are too high not to warrant some form of government aid.
Obama’s current policies on education aren’t perfect, but at least he’s urging colleges to keep tuition low and continue college loan programs. Romney, on the other hand, supports a 25 percent reduction in Pell grants, which are federal funds for students in need of financial aid. Though this plan might seem economically efficient now, an undereducated America will only lead to a difficult future.
Romney’s suggestion to enlist in the armed forces is hypocritical and simply impractical. Though his fiscal advice is more viable, it still fails to solve the broader issue: thousands of students have to compromise their education because of tuition increases across the board. If Romney wants to solve the numerous problems currently plaguing America, he needs to put education at the top of his priorities.
Burke Gibson is a freshman majoring in economics.