Candidates plan for higher ed.

    With the presidential election on the horizon and democratic primaries heating up with a come-from-behind win in the Iowa caucauses by Sen. John Kerry (D ‹ Mass.), top democratic candidates are trying to reach out and appeal to a younger generation of voters by proposing different plans to make higher education more accessible and affordable.

    As the California primary scheduled for March 2 approaches, some students are looking for a candidate to provide the relief and efficient solutions to California’s and many others states’ higher education funding deficits.

    “”I want a candidate who is going to continue or improve upon the federal government’s commitment to my education, especially in light of the recent tuition increases in this state,”” Earl Warren College junior Nick Comfolty said.

    Each presidential candidate has a different higher education platform, most with the goals of opening the doors to higher education and make college more affordable.

    Fmr. Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s “”College Commitment”” would seek to grant $10,000 a year in loans for each student’s post-secondary education.

    Students, according to Dean’s plan, would never have to pay more than 10 percent of their income after college on student payments, and if they are working and paying loans for 10 years, the remainder will be paid for them.

    “”We all understand the critical importance of higher education,”” said Dean in a speech to Dartmouth College students on Nov. 13, 2003. “”It leads to good jobs and individual success, an educated workforce and a strong middle class. [Students] need to know that the door to college is open to them. All they need to do is work hard and plan ahead and the path will be there.””

    Some, however, see problems in getting such a plan to work.

    “”Money automatically taken out of their incomes, that’s a problem I see,”” College Republicans Vice Chair Internal Adam Richards said. “”That can really hurt people down the road, and I’m not confident that students will want to do that. There are better pay plans than that out there.””

    Other candidates, such as Sen. John Edwards (D ‹ N.C.) and Gen. Wesley Clark, have different schemes for making higher education more affordable.

    Edwards’ “”College for Everyone”” program would provide one year of free tuition at public universities and community colleges for every student. In return, students would be required to work or serve their communities for an average of 10 hours each week.

    Clark wants to make the first two years of college free for “”most students”” by creating a Universal College Grant of $6,000 per year for the first two years of any public or private university. Clark hopes to pay for more than half of the cost of this grant by consolidating the Pell Grant and the Hope Scholarship and increasing competition for student loans by eliminating billions of dollars per year in subsidies that the government pays to banks that offer student loans.

    “”I pledge to you that by the end of my first term in office, one million additional students will gain access to higher education,”” said Clark in a speech to high school students in New Hampshire on Dec. 10, 2003. “”Enrolling one million more Americans in college is an ambitious goal. But I believe leaders need to set ambitious goals and work hard to achieve them.””

    Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D – OH) plans to go even further by providing tuition-free higher education to millions of students in state universities.

    “”You want to stimulate the economy? Give everyone a chance to go to college, for free,”” said Kucinich in an interview with the Daily Californian dated Nov. 2, 2003. “”That will stimulate the economy. That will set off a boom in education in this country that will enable people to get better educated and therefore be able to have the kind of options where they can go into a career that they wouldn’t have been able to afford before.””

    However, some political experts meet plans such as Kucinich’s with skepticism.

    “”I highly doubt that such plans would pass in the legislature,”” said UCSD political science professor Gary Jacobson. “”Especially in California, I see college becoming less and less free. Where will the money come from for such plans? What incentives do students have to finish their college education if it’s free? It’s very easy for candidates to talk because they don’t have to face the reality of paying for it yet.””

    Kerry’s college platform features student grants in the form of tax credits. Kerry’s “”College Opportunity Tax Credit”” would provide a credit for up to $4,000 on each year of college that breaks down as 100 percent of the first $1,000 and 50 percent of every $1,000 afterwards for the duration of a student’s college career.

    “”We have two main goals,”” UCSD’s Students for Kerry campaign volunteer and Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Mara Lee said. “”The first is to provide incentives for people to attend college, and the second is a policy of retention: to keep students in school and to graduate them.””

    Some hope that the democratic candidates would put more funds into higher education than the Bush administration has.

    “”We’re not seeing those promises made three years ago,”” said UCSD’s Students for Dean communications director and John Muir College junior Jeremy Cogan. “”We want to have ambitious goals for higher education, quality and progress. But it takes funds. You can’t promise to improve a system while cutting funds from it, and that’s what President Bush did.””

    Most of the candidates have come out in favor of service for college systems such as ROTC and AmeriCorps, where students can pay for their college education through service in the armed forces or in the community.

    Dean intends to provide further student loan relief for those who enter a career in public services such as nursing, teaching, law enforcement and firefighting in the form of a 7 percent yearly payback plan instead of the normal 10 percent.

    “”The basic Dean philosophy is to see more public service corps, especially those devoted to public safety and national service such as firefighters and the National Guard,”” said Cogan. “”Two things we desire: one, to increase our supply of desperately needed public servants; and two, to help people with their education by serving in the community and getting a good education at the same time.””

    Edwards’ program is mainly centered on community service as a means to pay back student loans, and Kerry’s “”Service for College”” initiative would offer students the chance to earn the equivalent of their state’s four-year public college tuition in exchange for two years of service.

    Most of the funds the candidates need for their education proposals would come from a repealing of tax cuts under the Bush administration.

    “”I think that to a certain degree some of them should be repealed, especially the ones that benefit the wealthy,”” Lee said. “”I think that it’s more important to educate a generation than have a wealthier top 10 percent.””

    Some disagree, saying the tax cuts have helped the economy.

    “”Not just the wealthy benefit from this tax cut,”” Richards said.

    With the anticipated New Hampshire primary coming up on Jan. 27, the candidates may expand on their higher education platforms to sway undecided college-age voters.

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