Once again, as election season draws near, the issue of student financial aid is up for debate. In today’s nation of rising college tuition amid unfavorable economic conditions, the increased need for financial aid — or at least a solution to this costly issue — takes center stage for millions of young adults whose futures might be at stake.
With two months remaining in the presidential race, both the left and right have made student aid a point of focus, most recently at the Democratic and Republican conventions.
In promising to make college more affordable with increased financial aid through the rise in the number of federally sponsored student loans, President Barack Obama has attacked Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for, according to The New York Times, “cutting investments in education” and “leaving one million students without scholarships and reducing financial aid to nearly 10 million.”
In the face of Obama’s challenges, Romney has countered that the president’s policies have yielded a “lost generation” drowning in debt amid a fruitless job market.
Though most students agree that aid is a crucial issue, USC students’ reactions to these two approaches to student aid and the economy run across the board.
“Romney’s solution is more sustainable in the long run and will help us solve this once and for all, rather than to bring it on to the next generation,” said PR Director of USC College Republicans Charles Epting, a sophomore and double-major in environmental studies and geology.
Despite being an ardent believer of little government intervention in aid, however, Epting believes that there are some exceptions.
“It’s fine to have some degree of federal support. Federal grants are a good way,” Epting said. “I myself have government money helping me through college. I’m not against totally against government involvement, but the point is, it’s run wild — it’s run rampant, and we’ve reached a point where we need to start changing.”
On the other hand, junior Catherine Shieh, a political science and urban planning major involved in USC College Democrats, supports Obama’s stances, arguing that federal fund cuts go against the one thing needed for economic growth: the creation of intellectual capital.
“Let’s say that we don’t have those loans or that we reduce the number of loans. Less people are going to college, and how will we continue to sustain our intellectual and creative capital and specialization in a variety of industries? You can’t do that without even getting access to education to begin with,” Shieh said. “The fact of the matter is that though we have higher standards of excellence in education now, we also have higher cost of living, and in pursuing education, and with that sort of problem, what band-aid can we use? I think that would be the expansion of loans.”
And yet for some, neither choices offered in this election satisfy.
Alistair Fortson, a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics and law, doesn’t agree with either candidate.
“I think that just in general, people say a lot of things, but then continue to take money out of education. Especially when it comes to public schools. I’d really like to see them get a little more money, because I know for a fact that they don’t receive enough money to do the programs they have, and they’ve got amazing programs in the schools of law, business. I wish the government would do a little more.”
Junior philosophy, law and politics major Taylor Fisher agreed.
“I’m kind of on the fence for Obama and Romney. I think they’re both missing the point that though we have other problems going on in the world, our Cal State schools and UC are still important in getting students an education,” Fisher said. “They don’t understand that raising prices and not allowing more incoming students isn’t really going to help the situation.”
Senior Neaz Kohani, a psychology major, goes back and forth on the issue too.
“I feel like Obama relates to the people a lot better, but at the end of the day, they’re both politicians, so it’s kind of hard to believe either side,” she said.
Students’ opinions do not necessarily run along clean-cut partisan lines. All the solutions proposed may just be temporarily relieving the bigger issue, some students said.
“Obama’s not really trying to fix the problem, he’s just postponing it,” said Christian Aguillon, a senior majoring in economics and communication.
Shieh feels the same way. “Right now, all we’re looking for are Band-Aids — regardless of whether you’re left or right, regardless of the kind of solution you’re looking for. It’s still a Band-Aid,” Shieh said. “The rising cost of education will hopefully become the root of policy conversation, because we can talk about loans all we want, but the fact that they cost so much while cutting education quality is something we must first approach before talking about the finance.”
Junior Lexine Cudjoe, a political science major, argues that the reality of the situation may be less-than-glamorous.
“It’s like choosing the better of two evils, since there isn’t really much of a choice that we’re given in this election,” she said.