Candidates Envision Ways to Promote Postsecondary Education
By Crystal L. Keels
Questions of military service and non-service, missing weapons of mass destruction, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, the threat of further terrorist attacks and the unprecedented suggestion that U.S. elections may be postponed are topics that have characterized the 2004 presidential election campaign thus far. But roiling under this thick layer of organized chaos is the reality that few detailed discussions of actual issues have taken place as President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., make their respective bids for the White House.
Both candidates, however, in between discussions of Swift Boat and National Guard service, seem to be advocating for affordable, quality education and appear to be canvassing higher education as a platform for change.
The candidates’ respective campaign proposals include financial aid modifications like increasing dollar amounts for Pell Grants and lifting restrictions for part-time students, college opportunity tax credits, adult literacy and community service programs.
•Financial aid: President Bush proposes to increase financial aid by a record $73 billion, an increase of $25.9 billion over 2001.
•Pell Grants: The president plans to invest $12.9 billion in Pell Grants, a 47 percent increase over 2001; provide $1,000 in additional Pell Grant funding for low-income students, bringing the total maximum to $5,050; and propose an additional $84 million for year-round Pell Grants for students who graduate early.
•Student Loan reformation: The president plans to increase the amount of loan limits from $2,625 for first-year students, and schools with low default rates will be provided more flexibility in loan disbursements. The proposal also includes a plan that student loans could be used for short-term training/retraining, teaching certifications and other competency-based programs.
•AmeriCorp Education Awards: Full-time AmericaCorps Corporation for National and Community Service members will receive $4,725 to pay for college or graduate school, according to the president’s proposal.
•Dual enrollment incentives: The president will provide community colleges grants of $125 million as incentives for dual enrollment programs (high school students receive college credit and thus graduate earlier), and proposes to facilitate the transfer of students’ community college credits to four-year institutions by providing state incentives.
•Job training programs/”Jobs for the 21st Century”: The president plans to invest $250 million for community-based job-training grants to community colleges to shore up workforce development efforts.
•No Child Left Behind Act: The president’s focus on K-12 education through NCLB stresses early educational intervention as a means to prepare students for success in higher education.
Source: www.GeorgeWBush.comJohn Kerry’s “Plan For America”
•College Opportunity Tax Credit: Sen. Kerry proposes up to $4,000 per year to cover four years of college for those students who are economically at risk and for those students who receive other credits.
•Financial Aid Application Process: Kerry plans to initiate the simplification of the FASA process based on tax return data to help low- and middle-income children and their families who might be hesitant about the cost of college and the application process.
•GEAR UP Programs: Kerry’s plan is to expand tutoring, mentoring and college preparation classes by two-thirds to annually serve 2 million children.
•Tuition: Kerry has proposed a $25 billion state tax relief and education fund, $10 billion of which will be targeted to higher education.
•Service: The “Service for College” initiative will provide students with the opportunity to earn the equivalent of their states’ four-year public college tuition in exchange for two years of service to the nation, which will be funded with student loan reforms that will require banks that currently service student loans to bid for such contracts in an open auction.
•Scholarships: The “I Have a Dream” scholarship will provide an additional $1,000 for students to participate in early intervention programs to help them prepare for college.
•Other proposals: Kerry proposes additional programs to prevent student dropouts and to defend Title IX.
The proposals President Bush and Sen. Kerry advance have obvious pros and cons, and the upcoming presidential debates will serve as a forum to flesh out the details of their respective policies.
— Shilpa Banerji contributed to this report.
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