Obama and Biden Talk Higher Education and College Debt on Campaign Trail
On the campaign trail last week, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden each highlighted the need for easier access to higher education during speeches in Golden, Colorado and at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, respectively. At both events, the president and vice president touted their own successes in extending federal aide for college students and the successes of the administration’s “Race to the Top Program.” Vice President Biden also used the opportunity to compare how such programs are opposed by the Republican ticket, particularly in Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan’s budget.
In his speech, the president spoke of how education was what allowed him to break through traditional boundaries set by race, and that the greatest hope for the middle class lies in allowing all citizens better access to college, calling education “the gateway of opportunity for middle-class families, for those who were willing hard to get into the middle class and stay there.”
“Education was a gateway of opportunity for me,” Obama said in Colorado. “Let’s face it. You know, a mixed kid from Hawaii born to a single mom is not likely to become president of the United States. But in America, it can happen because of education, because somebody gave me opportunity.”
Meanwhile, speaking before a large crowd of 3,000 people, Vice President Joe Biden outlined some of the key differences between the two presidential candidates on matters related to education, including loan debt and programs designed to assist students in paying for school.
Biden compared the two party’s platforms on issues regarding education, painting Republican contender Mitt Romney and his Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, whose constituency is in Wisconsin and is the House Budget Committee chairman, as being out of touch with the needs of regular Americans, particularly on the issue of federal student aid. Biden was especially harsh on Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal, which would cut Pell grants for students.
“They hardly mention education at all except in a negative context,” Biden said.
With less than two months left before the presidential election on November 6th, the Democratic ticket is seeking to rally the youth vote in favor of President Obama, a demographic that many analysts believe was largely responsible for his win in 2008. According to a poll conducted by the Associated Press-GfK earlier this year, 8 out of 10 Americans believe that education is one of the most important issues of this campaign.
The Obama administration has long cited education as a priority for both the Democratic party and the federal government. In addition to leading the charge against doubling student loan interest earlier this year, President Obama helped extend Pell grants that allow for $10,000 more per student, and reducing federal aid to colleges that fail to keep costs of attendance down.
Governor Mitt Romney, however, has opposed federal loan programs stating that the federal government “should not be in the business of originating student loans.”