This is the second story of an 11-article series leading up to the Nov. 6 presidential election that will break down the issues dominating political debates. Check back next Thursday for our segment on equal rights.
In a world where most young adults are expected to attend college after graduating high school, 75 percent of the public has said it’s too expensive for most Americans to afford, and 57 percent of the public has said college doesn’t provide students with a good value for the money spent, according to a study by Pew Research.
Both Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama think the cost of higher education is unacceptable.
At Ohio State, the price of tuition has increased 3.5 percent for the past two academic years, making it an overall 7 percent increase. With the cost of student loans increasing, attending even an in-state public university is becoming unaffordable for many.
Virginia Layton, university director and bursar of OSU’s Office of Financial Services, said about 40 percent of OSU students depend on student loans to help cover the costs of education.
In Obama’s most recent visit to Columbus, he spoke primarily on the subject of student loans to a crowd at Capital University Aug. 21. On a university campus, he told students that he, like them, had experience paying back student loan debt, and that something needed to be done to make college more affordable.
“Both of us (him and Michelle Obama) graduated from law school with a mound of debt. When we got married, we got poor together,” he said. “We paid more on our student loans than we did on our mortgage and that went on for years.”
Even with the high cost and burden of payments, Obama reminded students how important going to college is in finding a good job.
“Your education is the single most important investment you can make for your future,” Obama said. “This is about more than your own success, because now more than ever, your own success is America’s success.”
During his time in office, Obama said he has worked to raise K-12 standards so students are better prepared for college and to make financing more affordable.
About 363,000 students received Pell Grants in Ohio in 2010, and more than 44,000 of those were in Columbus, according to campaign statistics.
On Wednesday Obama participated in a live-thread conversation on reddit, a social news website. The website drew in so many visitors that the site crashed.
Saturday, Romney spoke in Powell, Ohio, a suburb about 30 minutes from campus, but he did not talk about student loans. However, during a March visit to the University of Chicago, Romney said Democrats were not looking out for the welfare of college-age adults.
“I don’t see how a young American can vote for, well, can vote for a Democrat,” Romney said in March.
According to the Romney campaign website, “all students should have the opportunity to attend a college that best suits their needs. Whether it is public or private, traditional or online, college must be available and affordable.”
Both Obama and Romney say people should believe that something can, and must be done about the affordability of a college education.
During his term as governor of Massachusetts, Romney increased access to charter schools for K-12 students so students could have the opportunity to attend better schools, according to his campaign website. The move has been criticized by some Democrats, afraid that low-performing schools would be abandoned.
“If you have a failing school you should be given the option to go somewhere else … President Obama believes in pouring money into failing schools,” said Niraj Antani, communication director for the OSU College Republicans.
Romney officially became the Republican nominee this week after securing enough delegates at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
During his visit to Capital, Obama talked about how students should take advantage of Pell grants, student loans and work-study programs. However, many believe that if the U.S. doesn’t lower the national debt, many of these programs will have to be cut.
“If you don’t get your huge spending under control … it’ll be (what) we have to eliminate,” said Drew Stroemple, president of the OSU College Republicans. “If we wanna keep these little programs around that are important to people, then we have to.”
Richard Stoddard, vice president of Government Affairs at OSU, said it likely isn’t a question of if education programs will be cut, it’s a matter of how.
“We are watching all this as you are, and the things that we are concerned with are student loans and student programs … and another big one for the university for research funding,” he said. “All those issues are up for grabs in the sense of will that change.”
He said that in addressing the debt issue, education funding could be seen as something easier to cut than other departments.
“The money that comes for higher education, whether that’s for research or financial aid, is in the discretionary part of the budget,” he said. “(It) will be impacted in any addressment of the debt.”
Stoddard said it’s important to pay attention to what the president and congress do after the election.
“If the candidates are trying to say, ‘We’re interested in this issue that is important to you,’ then you have to stay engaged to see the details evolve, whoever wins, you have to say, ‘What’s going to happen, what are you doing to do, how are you going to implement that, and how will that affect me.'”
He said that the emphasis on education issues in this election reflects the candidates belief that voters care about education.
“You have a dual constituency when you talk about higher education,” he said. “You’ve got the constituency of the students and the parents.”
Stoddard said that while the candidates disagree on several aspects of education, they agree on at least one front.
“Both candidates believe that cost in higher education is one of the issues,” he said. “It’s not whether we should be offering geography or geology, it’s what is the cost of an education.”
Ally Marotti contributed to this article.