Higher Education: The Bush plan vs. The Kerry Plan

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – As the presidential election began heating up in August, thousands of college students across the nation headed back to school, many greatly concerned about large tuition increases — troubling not only for the students, but also for their parents who often foot the bill.

For many families, finding a way to pay for higher education is often the hardest obstacle in going to college.In the end, cost is often one of the most important factors.

“It was definitely why I went to Penn State,” said senior chemical engineering major Jen Galvin.”It was the deciding factor.”

According to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, state school tuition increases are about 10% for the 2004-2005 year. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities estimates that private institutions raised tuition 6 percent for the 2004-2005 year.

“It is the primary reason I decided to choose an in-state school,” said first year Temple University medical student Gunjan Shah.

Recognizing the increasing cost of higher education, both Bush and Kerry have put forth plans to make college more affordable and increase the number of graduates.

“We can do something immediately about this problem,” said Elizabeth Edwards, wife of democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards.

President Bush’s plan increases the amount a student can receive in Pell grants, as well as increasing the loan limits for first year students.Pell grants are given predominately to undergraduate students, who demonstrate financial need. This year’s limit is $4,050, up from $3,300 in 2000-2001.

“We ought to say, look, if you qualify for Pell grants, go ahead and take tougher courses in high school, math and sciences, which will be needed to fill the jobs of the 21st century, and we’ll pay you extra money,” President Bush said at a recent campaign stop in Wisconsin.

The Bush plan focuses on community colleges, by encouraging dual enrollment in high school and community college as well as increasing appropriations to these schools.

“I’ve laid out a quarter-billion-dollar initiative for my ’05 budget to help good community colleges develop the curriculum and recruit the students necessary so people can find work,” Bush said.

“Obviously the lower income families are important,” said Florida native and George Washington University senior Sarah Cohen. “For middle income families, two or three kids in college hurts them a lot.”

Senator Kerry’s plan aims to keep state tuition low by offering $10 billion as an incentive to states that keep tuition down. The Kerry plan also offers also a tax credit for parents.

“The dollar for dollar tax credit, $4,000 per year, per student, will make it much easier for young people to go to college,” said Elizabeth Edwards. “I think it’s a smart answer.”

“I think Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards come at the problem with wide range solutions,” she said.

Besides the tax credit, the Kerry plan also includes an option of community service.For two years of community service, a student can receive four years of free tuition at a state or community college.

“If you are in college and you do community service you can receive up to $2,000 in tuition credit,” said Edwards.

The Bush plan also includes community service.It aims to increase AmeriCorps Education Awards for participants. Currently AmeriCorps members can receive $4,725 towards college tuition for a year of full-time service.

Community service for tuition programs are popular among college students. Jen Galvin is considering Teach for America, a service-teaching program.

“I think community service plans are a good option for kids who want to take a year or two off,” said Shah.

“I like the community service idea, obviously a lot of people can benefit from it,” said Cohen.

Although the candidates have plans to deal with the problem of higher education, students feel there is little the federal government can do to solve it.

“There is only so much that can be done at a federal level for education, it’s just an issue of funding,” said Galvin.

“There is always more that can be done,” agreed Cohen. “But there are also other concerns.”

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