A high school senior who was worried about how he and his family would pay for college, asked Mitt Romney at a town hall meeting in Youngstown Ohio what the candidate would do about rising college costs if elected.
What a softball question … after all, Mitt was once a high school student, himself, as well as being the father for five sons … and what a great segue to a standard Romney talking-point … “I understand jobs because I’ve had jobs. I mean, I look at our president, and frankly others who are running in this race who have never worked in the private sector. In my view, it’s more important to have private-sector experience to get this economy going.”
Look at the Romney profile … in 1965, he graduated Cranbrook Academy, a prestigious boys-only private school in Bloomfield Hills Michigan … then on to Stanford University and Brigham Young University for an undergraduate degree (in English) and then he earned a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law (HLS) and an MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS).
Obviously, these are highly respected schools … in fact, some would describe them as “elite” … as well as expensive schools … fortunately for young Mitt, his father had invested Mitt’s birthday money year to year — it wasn’t much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because as President of American Motors, George Romney believed in his company. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so Mitt and his wife could live and pay for education. Graduate school necessitated a loan from Mitt’s father allowing the couple to purchase a $42,000 home in Belmont. Mitt’s children received an inheritance from George Romney to pay for their education at BYU and Harvard.
Surely, the young lad in Youngstown could relate to Mitt’s situation … but what if his Dad did not have the financial abilities that the Romney’s enjoyed, then Mitt could have phrased his answer to highlight Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Work-study programs, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (which provides a maximum $2,500 tuition tax credit to eligible families and students), potential scholarships through programs like Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), etc. … all these programs could help defray the average in-state tuition at a four-year public college now which now exceeds $17,000 per year.
So, what words of advice did Mitt Romney offer …
“It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that. Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And hopefully you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”
That’s the Romney college plan … “hopefully you’ll find” a good education that has a little lower price … ‘cause President Romney will “send a bill to Congress on Day One” with a 5 percent, across-the-board cut to non-security discretionary spending. On top of that, he’d also pass the House Republican version of the 2011 budget (which capped spending at below 2008 levels) featuring reduce funding for Pell Grants by approximately $5.7 billion, or 24 percent, and would reduce the maximum discretionary Pell Grant award by $845 (from $4,860 to $4,015), or 17.4 percent. This cut would affect all 9.4 million students who receive Pell Grants.
Of course, the student could consider Student Loans … but that comes with a warning … rising rates … as it stands now, interest rates for more than 7 million students will double to 6.8 percent in July unless Congress acts. At a time of historic low interest rates, the average borrower will have to pay $2,800 more in higher interest costs if Congress doesn’t act.
Candidate Romney could have encouraged Congress to make the changes … but no, his warning was “don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”
If attacking Pell Grants sounds familiar, that’s because John Kline (R-MN-02), the current Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, has endorsed that.
That said, voters do not have to wait until Election Day, to tell soon-to-be-President Romney and Chairman Kline their thoughts as Chairman Kline has posed a question on the Committee’s website :
Leaders in Washington are discussing a variety of solutions to help ease the rising cost of college. Which option do you think is the most responsible solution for students, families, and taxpayers?
— Create additional taxpayer-funded federal subsidies for college students.
— Help students and families make fiscally responsible decisions by providing better information about college costs and outcomes.
— Spend $6 billion to prevent the subsidized Stafford Loan interest rate for undergraduate students from rising for one year.
— Eliminate unnecessary federal regulations that pile additional costs and burdens on colleges.
— Encourage colleges to act responsibly and look for ways to streamline costs and reduce tuition.
So, weigh in … wanna-be-President Romney says if you wanna go to the U, you are on your own … or should our nation invest in helping young Americans gain the skills and training needed to be successful in our 21st century economy ?
BTW, while Chairman Kline is waiting for the results of his survey, he could hold a hearing on “The Student Loan Simplification and Opportunity Act of 2011” or H.R. 2732 which would allow students with loans under the Federal Family Educational Loan program to convert them to lower-interest federal Direct loans without penalty, and, in fact, to receive a reduction in outstanding principal as an incentive for making the switch. The program could benefit up to 1.6 million borrowers and reduce payments by as much as a couple hundred dollars a month without adding to the federal deficit. The Senate has a companion bill S. 1068 which is co-sponsored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN).