Friday, October 24, 2008

Barack Obama's position on Higher Education (unedited)

Throughout his presidential campaign, Democrat Barack Obama has emphasized “change,” but more importantly for college students, he has emphasized on reforming higher education.

If elected, Obama promises to simplify the application process for financial aid, eliminate subsidies on the most costly student loans, expand Pell Grants for low-income undergraduate students and improve community colleges across the nation.

Obama plans to create the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” which proposes that the first $4,000 of a college education would be completely free for most Americans. The tax credit would also make community college free for most students.

At AACC, tuition is has been $86 per credit hour for Anne Arundel County residents since 2006. For a full-time credit student, two semesters at AACC cost $2,064. With Obama’s tax credit of $4,000, an AACC student would have their tuition covered and enough for fees and books.

There is a catch to Obama’s tax credit plan: recipients have to complete 100 hours of community service a year. Community service might be a better alternative to the high interest rates that accompany student loans.

Even at an affordable community college, students may still wonder, “How am I going to pay for this?” According to Obama and Joe Biden’s plan, the average graduate leaves college with more than $19,000 in debt.

Obama and Biden’s plan promises to eliminate subsidies for the most expensive private loan programs. Unlike publicly funded loans, the Federal Family Education Loan Program is funded privately by banks and lenders. Private loans cost more than publicly funded loans and do not offer any extra benefits. Obama plans to eliminate the subsidies given to private lenders and direct the money into aid for students.

Many students are forced to seek student loans when financial aid isn’t enough or their families are determined ineligible.

Obama has proposed to reform the financial aid process by eliminating the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). Instead of completing the lengthy application, families would be able to apply for financial aid by checking a box on their tax forms.

He argues that by simplifying the financial aid process, more families will be able to afford college tuition without racking up student loan debt.

Throughout Obama’s political career, he has worked towards increasing Pell Grant’s available to students. Currently, Pell Grant’s are available to low-income undergraduate students.
Grant amounts are determined by the estimated family contribution, the cost of attendance and whether the student attends school full or part-time classes.

The maximum amount a student can receive from a Pell Grant is $4,731. Obama hopes to maximize the Pell Grant to $5,400 in order to better fit the needs of students and reflect tuition inflation.

According to Obama’s plan, 12 million people attend community college’s a year and without them, millions of people would not be able to access the education and skills to succeed.

Obama plans to give more support to community colleges though his Community College Partnership Program. He hopes to provide grants to community colleges to analyze what programs and degrees are needed for the American people to keep pace with the demanding workforce.

He would also like to reward the institutions that have high graduation and transfer rates.

“We'll help schools determine what skills and technical education are needed to help local industry; we'll expand new degrees for emerging fields; and we'll reward schools that graduate more students,” said Obama in a speech gave at the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency in 2007. “That's the change we need so that our young people can achieve their dreams.”

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