A Theoretical Look at Higher Education

1 Nov

What comes to mind when you hear the words “political issues”? Is it the economy, unemployment, health care, or military spending? Before I began this blog, those four issues would have been the first that came to mind for me.  In researching and posting to this blog though, I have now developed a theory on how higher education came to be a political issue and why it has become a source of controversy in government elections in today’s society.  Extensive government involvement in the funding and accessibility of higher education first began during the World War II era with universities being used to train soldiers and strengthen military technology.  The GI Bills that allowed approximately 3.5 million veterans to attend college were also enacted during this time.  Since that era, the government’s role in and the accessibility of higher education have become the sources of controversy that have made education a political issue. The issue of accessibility to higher education has become significantly controversial in today’s society due to the overwhelming amount of national student loan debt that now surpasses the national credit card debt. This exponential increase in the amount of debt owed by college students and their families has been caused by higher tuition costs and an increase in college enrollment since the beginning of the economic recession. The controversial aspect of this issue of rising tuition costs and student debt are the different methods government officials want to use to bring an end to this debt crisis.  For Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and the Republican party, the way to handle rising tuition costs is to decrease the amount of federal dollars put towards student loans.  Romney and the republicans believe federal spending on higher education has only caused tuition costs to increase even more and the solution is for colleges to curb their costs and the federal government to decrease regulation on higher education institutions.  On the contrary, President Obama and the Democratic party want to expand the amount of federal dollars put towards higher education by increasing funding for the Pell Grant program.  Obama’s plan to relieve student debt also includes a student loan reform which requires the amount students pay back on their loans each month to be strictly income-based.

The bottom line is, Romney and the republicans want less federal government involvement in higher education and Obama and the democrats want more federal government involvement.  The theory I have developed from learning all of this is that the way to bring an end to these polarized sides is to develop a government policy for higher education that satisfies both parties.  Such a policy should not only involve less federal spending on higher education, seeing as it only increases tuition costs as well as the national debt, but also federal programs like the Pell Grant program should still remain active. The policy should also include President Obama’s student loan reform so that loan debt will decrease as well as less regulation of colleges and universities by the federal government so that these institutions can compete with one another and begin to lower their tuition costs.  I theorize that while it may not solve all of the issues in higher education, a policy that acts as a compromise between the two opposing sides will bring the United States one step closer to making higher education more affordable and accessible to all of its citizens.

Could they ever reach a compromise?

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