A closer look at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s latest campaign advertisement — a Spanish-language television ad aimed at Hispanic college students and their families — reveals a half-hearted appeal to this specific voter demographic.
The ad bashes President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party for allegedly failing to deliver on its commitment to improve education. The ad highlights various statistics: 75 percent of the U.S. population believes college lacks accessibility, tuition costs have risen 25 percent since 2008 and total student debt has reached $1 trillion. Though the ad emphasizes real problems young Hispanics and their families face today, it fails to offer any insight of Romney’s plans to alleviate these problems. The ad feels demeaning — does he really think he can simply tell us education is a problem, offer us no plan to resolve it and gain our vote?
Perhaps the reason Romney does not reveal his plans for higher education in his campaign ads is because, in reality, they would not be very well received by Hispanic college students.
In fact, even if Hispanic voters visit Romney’s campaign website, they would still be left wondering what exactly Romney’s plan for higher education promises. The website is extremely vague on the issue of higher education. It only offers unsubstantiated claims, such as, “a flood of federal dollars is driving up tuition and burdening too many young Americans with substantial debt and too few opportunities.”
Though it is troublesome that no facts or studies are cited to support such a claim, the bigger problem is that the Romney campaign fails to provide prospective Hispanic voters with a detailed plan to alleviate these problems. It simply lists the following three general ideas: strengthen and simplify the financial aid system, welcome private sector participation instead of pushing it away and replace burdensome regulation with innovation and competition. The ambiguity of these ideas seems strategic, as the Romney campaign leaves much of Romney’s plan for higher education up to the imagination of prospective voters.
Perhaps the best way for prospective Hispanic voters to gain an understanding of Romney’s education policies is to keep an ear out for what he has said on the campaign trail.
While campaigning in Virginia last June, Romney revealed more of his attitude toward education:
“I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot,” he said. “They get as much education as they can afford and with their time they’re able to get.”
For Romney to say that the United States is a place where everyone has a fair shot is lofty and out-of-touch. Is it fair that a Caucasian student from Beverly Hills can easily afford a college education while a Hispanic student from South Los Angeles cannot? No, it’s not. And in a country where only 14.1 percent of Hispanics hold a bachelor’s degree, Romney shouldn’t suggest that students who come from low- and middle-income families shouldn’t pursue higher education simply because their parents’ bank accounts aren’t as large as their more affluent counterparts’.
Additionally, Hispanic college students would likely be displeased with the stance of Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, on the matter of higher education.. According to US News & World Report, Paul Ryan’s proposed 2013 budget plan would have, among other things, permanently frozen maximum Pell Grants at $5,500 per year, increased the amount of income families are expected to contribute toward college costs and made students who attend college less than half-time ineligible for Pell Grants.
It is not surprising that the Romney campaign omits Ryan’s proposal in its television ads aimed at Hispanics, considering his plan would pose a threat to the 37 percent of Hispanic college students who receive a federal Pell Grant.
By presenting a campaign ad full of education-related reasons not to re-elect Obama rather than reasons to elect Romney, the Romney campaign effectively undermines Hispanic students. The ad relies on petty attacks aimed at the Obama administration in order to avoid the fact that Romney’s higher education plan does not speak to Hispanic students’ needs.
Hispanic college students and their families should not take Romney’s ad at face value; rather, they should research the candidate’s stance on the issues presented. If they do, they will realize that Mitt Romney’s higher education plan hardly provides a reason to elect him.
Jessica Garcia is a senior majoring in social science and with an emphasis in economics.