Obama vs. Romney 101: 5 differences on education

President Obama says his policy initiatives are helping teachers, schools, and students. Mitt Romney advocates more school choice and private-sector involvement. Here is a look at how the two differ on eduction issues.

5. Higher education

Aaron Bernstein/Reuters/File
Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin speaks at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Aug. 15.

Obama and Romney “have many more differences on higher education than they do on K-12 … and it comes down to the role of the for-profit industry – both for-profit lenders as well as for-profit colleges and universities,” says Mr. Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Obama touts several moves he’s made to help students afford college and feel less burdened by loans.

  • He created a tax credit for college students worth up to $10,000 over four years.
  • He pushed for a law that will enable some students to cap their loan payments at 10 percent of their disposable income, and have the remainder of their loans forgiven after 10 to 20 years of reliable repayment.
  • The Obama administration also changed the loan system so that all federal loans originate directly with the federal government, rather than through private banks. The shift away from the subsidized middlemen is expected to save about $60 billion over 10 years.

Obama wants to continue to channel much of those savings into Pell Grants for low- to middle-income college students.

Romney says in his education plan that increases in Pell Grants are an example of how “flooding colleges with federal dollars only serves to drive tuition higher.”

“This has been the Republican argument literally for decades,” says Mr. Petrilli. “There’s a correlation, but it’s hard to prove causation.”

Romney says the government should no longer “write a blank check to universities” but support “institutions that are pursuing innovative operating models to drive down costs.”

Romney proposes to reverse the “nationalizing” of student loans, and to “embrace a private-sector role in providing information, financing, and education itself.”

He says he’ll work with private partners to do a better job than Obama has in making college cost and outcome data available to consumers.

Romney also wants to roll back Obama’s “gainful employment” rule – tying federal aid eligibility to an institution’s ability to show that its graduates can earn sufficient income to repay loans. It’s a rule that for-profit colleges fought hard against. 

For a full list of stories about how Romney and Obama differ on the issues, click here.

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