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Columbia Missourian

Obama and Romney on education

By Antony Lee
October 28, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CDT

This article is one of 12 that examine where President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stand on some of the issues that are important to voters.

Education

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Barack Obama

Obama plans to help cut the growth of college tuition and fees in half over the next 10 years. He proposes bringing together community colleges and businesses to train 2 million Americans for jobs that exist now and are waiting to be filled.

Obama doubled funding for federal Pell Grants for college students and capped federal student loan repayments at 10 percent of income.

He credits his administration’s “Race to the Top,” program, which was announced in July 2009 and cost more than $4 billion in stimulus money, for helping spur 46 states to raise standards in their schools. It rewarded states for meeting certain educational standards.

He said he proposes programs that would help schools hire 100,000 more math and science teachers.

Mitt Romney

Romney says he would pursue education reform that would reward teachers for results instead of tenure. Although he believes the primary responsibility for education should be left to states and local school districts, he also believes the federal government can play an important role in education.

In K-12 education, instead of federal funds going to the state or school district, he would have federal funds go to parents and students so they can choose what schools to attend.

Regarding higher education, Romney said federal financial aid programs are driving up tuition and burdening young Americans with debt. He believes the U.S. should focus more on models of skill training rather than community and four-year colleges.

Analysis

Peggy Placier, an associate professor in the MU College of Education, boiled down the candidates' stances.

"Obama says higher education is getting increasingly expensive so the federal government needs to provide more funding to students in the form of grants and loans, so they can afford it,” she said.

On the other hand, Romney believes we are spending too much federal money on four-year colleges and would instead focus on programs that are less expensive, such as technical schools or online programs.

“It’s the difference between providing students with more money to take care of rising education costs (Obama) and encouraging students to go outside that traditional four-year structure to get a better value for their money (Romney),” Placier said.

Amy Laitinen, deputy director for higher education at the New America Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, said one of the biggest problems with Romney’s idea of having federal funds going to the parents and students in grades K-12 is that every parent would pick the great schools, but there are not enough great schools.

“Obama has made education a central part of all of his past budgets,” she said. “In the first two years, with a Democratic-controlled House and Senate, his proposed budgets went through, allowing for the increase in federal Pell Grants.” 

Regarding Obama's plan to cut the growth of tuition in half over the next 10 years, Obama has said he would be stricter on how much money colleges and universities get, based on the “value” schools provide to students, she added.

“I think that is something that has not been tried before and it’s worth trying,” she said. “It would have an effect, but whether it would reduce tuition dramatically, it's too early to tell. He hasn't done it so far.”

“Regarding Obama's proposal to hire 100,000 more math and science teachers, I think he could do it,” Laitinen said. “… The question is whether Congress will accept it.