Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Presidential Hopefuls Gradually Roll out Education Plans

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Presidential Hopefuls Gradually Roll out Education Plans

Article excerpt

From student loans to college access programs, candidates offer proposals.

Even with the 2008 presidential election 17 months away, candidates are already rolling out improvement plans that may change the federal role in K-12 and higher education.

But is anyone listening?

"I have heard nothing yet that interests me," says Thomas G. Mortenson, a higher education policy analyst with Postsecondary Education Opportunity. But he says it's natural at this stage in the campaign to have more generalities than specifics.

"With the war, budget deficits and environmental issues, I do not expect the candidates to invest much time on higher education issues until things move further along and the field trims down," he says.

Here, Diverse takes a look at the field of Democratic candidates. In a future issue, the magazine will examine the plans of Republican hopefuls.

This year alone, dozens of colleges have found themselves dealing with student loan scandals, and many institutions and lenders have agreed to reform questionable links between private loan companies and campus financial aid offices. Several presidential hopefuls have cited the scandals as an opportunity to remake the system and save money in the process.

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., both have proposed ending the Federal Family Education Loan program, which provides subsidies to help banks and lenders offer student loans. Instead, they would require students to borrow directly from the federal government through the competing Direct Loan program, which does not involve commercial lenders.

"One way we can help make college more affordable is by reforming a wasteful system of student loans that profit private banks at the cost of taxpayers," Obama said in a recent announcement. "We shouldn't be providing billions in taxpayer-funded giveaways to private banks."

Most of the Democratic hopefuls make a strong case for Pell Grant expansion, which has become a priority for the party on Capitol HilL President Bush has called for a Pell Grant increase next year, and the issue for many is not whether to increase the grant but how to pay for it. The growing consensus among the candidates to increase Pell awards makes it hard for some observers to see many differences. …

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