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President Obama 2.0: 4 more years!

8 Nov

Early on the morning of November 7, 2012 from Chicago, IL: Re-elected President Barack Obama celebrates his victory alongside his wife Michelle Obama as well as Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill

At approximately 12:00 a.m. on November 7th, 2012, Barack Obama and his family learned that they would not need to find a new place to live in 2013.  It was at this time that President Obama, who had anxiously been awaiting results all night from the Democratic Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, earned the more than 270 electoral votes needed to win the Presidency.  The celebrations of Obama supporters continued throughout the early morning hours of November 7th as the electoral votes for President Obama climbed from 270 to a total of 303.  President Obama gained 60,652,238 popular votes to defeat Governor Mitt Romney who gained only 57,810,407 votes.  The race was a tight one as news stations everywhere covered the progress of the election and results from all fifty states trickled in one at a time.  Around the time that President Obama won the majority in the electoral college, Mitt Romney gave his speech conceding to defeat and gave his best wishes to the new two-term President in saying “I pray that the President will be successful in guiding our nation.” President Obama thanked his supporters in his victory speech and stated, “We know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”

So what does another four years of the Obama administration mean for higher education? More federal spending towards colleges and universities will come in the form of an increase in funding for the Pell Grant program.  Community colleges will be partnered with businesses in order to train and produce workers specifically for jobs in these businesses. With the implementation of President Obama’s student loan reform, the amount graduates pay back on their loans each month will be capped at 10% of their income.  President Obama’s administration is working to lower tuition costs in order to increase accessibility to college using all of the aforementioned methods but reducing the federal deficit will also be of concern.  Will his policies work? Will the number of college graduates increase? Will student loan debt decrease? Will higher education experience a change for the better between now and 2016? As I support President Obama’s policies, I believe they will have a positive impact but in reality we, the American people, will just have to wait and see!

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MixedupMind; A Self-Analysis

8 Nov

In my first post to this 2012 Election Blog, I warned you of my “rookie” status to both blogging and politics, specifically the politics of higher education.  I was not someone who had ever really taken the time to analyze political issues, like the one discussed in this blog, and figure out how these issues had an impact in my life. As a first time voter in this year’s exciting Presidential Election, I was proud to consider myself an informed voter who chose the candidate I supported based on my knowledge of their positions and not based on who my friends or family told me to vote for.

Over the course of the month in which I have posted in this blog, I have learned to think not only about how the increasing costs of higher education are a pain to both graduate and undergraduate students but also about how these costs are detrimental to the American economy. As tuition costs for both public and private universities have continuously increased in recent years, many young adults and their parents paying for their education have begun to question what a college degree is worth.  In other words, students and parents question whether or not the financial returns provided by a college degree after graduation are worth the cost of 4 years of tuition, housing, and textbooks. With the earnings from a Bachelor’s degree proving to be $50,000 less than the cost of tuition, room, and board as recently as two years ago in 2010, many people are turning down the chance to attend college and entering America’s workforce with only a high school degree.  This decrease in the amount of high-level education in the American workforce is beginning to threaten the United States’ position in the world as a place of educational leadership.  A smaller amount of workers who hold college degrees has also shown to be detrimental to America’s ability to compete in the global economy as well as lead to 3.3 million jobs in the U.S. going unfilled because employers say they cannot find enough qualified workers.

My analysis of how rising tuition costs are beginning to limit the number of people attending college as well as the capabilities of America’s workforce also led me to recognize the importance of what type of training and learning should be taking place in higher education institutions.  Due in large part to state appropriations for colleges falling by 7.6% from 2011 to 2012, many colleges and universities have found themselves being forced to cut costs by eliminating or decreasing the amount of training offered in the technical, engineering, and health care fields.  Unfortunately, these are the fields in which training needs to be stressed because workers with experience in these areas of study are currently in high demand.  With cut backs in funding, higher education institutions are finding it more difficult to provide the necessary training to students so that they are able to build a career after graduation. By recognizing the importance of job training needing to take place in colleges, I found myself shifting from unsure about which presidential candidate I would vote for to not having a doubt in my mind.  I stated in my first post that I was in support of President Obama’s higher education policies but I became fully confident in this decision after learning of President Obama’s plan to increase job-training programs in community colleges as well as partner businesses with community colleges to prepare students for jobs right after graduation.  My support for President Obama was also strengthened by his commitment to invest more than $40 billion into the Pell Grant program through the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act which will increase the number of students able to attend college who previously could not. Furthermore, President Obama’s “Pay As You Earn” student loan reform which caps the amount that graduates pay back on their loans each month at 10% of their income appealed to me as an effective way to decrease the national student loan debt.

While researching and analyzing higher education in politics and this election, I surprised myself at how interested I became not only in higher education but other political issues as well.  I also surprised myself with my decision to support President Obama.  I come from a very southern and conservative background so before beginning my independent research, I fully expected myself to agree with the policies of Governor Mitt Romney seeing as he was the most talked about by the friends and family in my life.  However, upon researching each candidate’s platform for higher education, I found that I disagreed with Romney’s policies not only due to his lack of specifics but also his lack of support for federal government involvement in higher eduction.  Romney’s policy involved providing better information about costs to students and parents so they could make informed decisions about which college to choose but also included limiting government funding to colleges in a time when they need it most.  In researching Romney’s position, I learned how his idea of innovation and competition could be beneficial but I continued (and still continue) to agree with President Obama that government support is what is needed right now for higher education institutions and students.

One of the most significant ways in which I grew as a thinker over the course of posting to this blog was my recognition of unavoidable bias in political issues, like higher education.  While analyzing higher education policies, finding information that was not biased towards President Obama, Governor Romney, or either of their affiliated parties was a difficult task.  All of this biased information I found however was beneficial in showing me how the two sides of not only higher education,but other political issues as well, came to be.  Drawing from the bias presented by the Internet and other media I have come to realize that politics are less about the actual policies and more about the leader presenting them and what groups of people will gain and lose depending on which leader wins.  What I have learned is that there are people who will vote for a candidate not because of their platform but because of their skin color or religion because it is seen as a “win” for that group of people.  Perhaps the most prevalent example of this in today’s society are the assumptions made that all African-Americans vote for President Obama simply because of his race and not his presidential abilities.  As a young voter, I found myself guilty of this way of thinking before writing this blog.  For example, before even knowing anything about the candidate, I planned to vote for any female running for office simply because I am a female as well and would like to see women advance in government offices.  In researching higher education issues during this Presidential election season, I have learned to be a non-biased thinker and recognize bias when I see it. I have also learned the importance of voting for someone not because of what they look like or what religion they practice but because of what actions they plan to take and whether or not I agree with those actions.

Lastly, while I know it is a cliche’ these days, I have learned the importance of voting. As I became more aware of the issues surrounding higher education and what I wanted to see done to resolve those issues, I became more and more anxious to make my voice heard! Until I began researching and following the issues in this year’s election, I took the right to vote for granted. I could’ve cared less about who the President was or whether or not I even had the right to vote.  Today though my entire way of thinking has changed as I have learned not only how our leader’s higher education policies will impact me as a college student but how his policies on things like health care and unemployment will impact myself and everyone else I know.  To this end, I am now proud that I made my voice heard on election day and am determined to continue to cast my vote in the coming election years as an informed voter.  While I am still more of a MixedupMind than a political guru, I am a work in progress in understanding political issues and higher education is only the first of many more to be researched.

I voted and I’m proud of it!

It All Comes Down to This! Election Day-November 6th, 2012

6 Nov
What’s next for the United States?

Today is the day voters, election day that is! By the end of this day, November 6th, 2012, the next President of the United States will be decided.  The future of higher education will also be decided with the outcome of this election.  As I have stated previously, if President Obama is to be re-elected, more government funding will be put towards colleges and universities and the funding for the Pell Grant Program will also increase. If Governor Mitt Romney becomes the 45th President of the United States, government regulation of higher education institutions will be replaced with the government’s encouragement of innovation and competition among these institutions. So who, or should I say what, are you voting for America? Which candidate/strategy do you think will increase accessibility to higher education and reduce the $1 trillion student loan debt in America? With those ages 18 to 24 years old enrolled in college increasing from 35% in 2000 to 41% in 2010, it is clear that this is an age group that will be largely impacted by the new President’s higher education policies.  Since members of this age group, including myself, have the right to vote, I would like to focus on what these young adults will be voting for today.

Approximately one year ago today, The Institute for College Access and Success conducted a survey of U.S. adults ages 18-34 to see what they believed were the most important concerns in regard to higher education.  The survey found that regardless of their party affiliation, the majority of those surveyed felt that a college degree was more important than ever to obtain but also more difficult to afford.  73% of those surveyed believed that college graduates are coming out of college with amounts of student loan debt that they cannot handle. Also, 75% were opposed to cutting Pell Grant funding and 73% opposed charging students interest on their federal loans even when these strategies were shown as ways to reduce the federal deficit.  The bottom line is that this young adult age group, at least 68% of them, want Congress to make the affordability of college and the reduction of student loan debt a top priority.   If the President was to be chosen by those who participated in this survey, it is clear that Barack Obama would come out on top seeing as the majority of those surveyed oppose cuts to the Pell Grant program and President Obama has already proposed a plan to increase funding for this program. But since the President will be chosen by everyone voting in the nation and not just young adults, college students and those concerned with higher education policies will also have to depend on other voters to take their concerns about college costs and student debt into account while voting.

Young adults will find out tonight whether or not their “voices” were heard in the 2012 Presidential Election.  Will Obama be able to implement his plan for more funding for Pell Grants and his student loan reform? Will Romney be allowed to reduce federal spending on education to encourage competition and lower tuition costs? The answer to these questions is left up to you America.  Happy Election Day!

2011_Young_Adult_Higher_Ed_Poll_NR-click here for the report regarding the survey conducted by The Institute for College Access and Success

Dear MixedupMind, what else do I need to know? Sincerely, your followers.

5 Nov

In posting to this blog I have informed you, my followers, about the issues surrounding higher education in the 2012 Presidential Election.  While higher education is an important issue, it is one of many being debated in this year’s election.  To provide you with information and different perspectives regarding these issues, I have listed below links to other blogs concerning one of the topics of the 2012 Presidential Election.

If you have been following the 2012 Presidential Election at all, or have paid attention to any aspect of government and politics recently for that matter, then you have heard the topic of health care come up countless times.  You have also most likely heard debates over what each candidate plans to do for health care in America and more specifically, what they plan to do for women’s health care.  To become more informed about health care reform in general and for women, look no further than 2012 B.C: Better Coverage. The writer of this blog focuses on how women will be impacted by each Presidential candidate’s plan for health care reform in both an informative and comedic manner. The blog posts on this page focus on the “Affordable Care Act”, also known as “Obamacare”, as well as preventative care services offered to women by this act.  The author of the blog simplifies these health care policies for readers by answering frequently asked questions about these confusing policies.  But don’t be fooled by all the talk about President Obama and women on this page, the author also details how men are impacted by Obamacare as well as what Romney and the Republican party plan to do for health care.  2012 B.C.: Better Coverage analyzes the arguments being made in the debate over health care reform and preventative care for women from the perspectives of liberals, conservatives, and religious institutions.  Along with analyzing the different perspectives, the author also provides a post explaining why Americans should care about health care reform and what they have to gain, and lose, in this year’s election. I speak from experience when I say that reading this blog exponentially aided my understanding of health care reform policies in the 2012 Presidential Election.

Throughout my blog posts, I have referred to the economy and the unemployment rate numerous times when discussing higher education and the impact it has on these two concepts. A topic frequently debated among President Obama and Governor Romney is how each of them plan to “fix” the economy by ultimately providing jobs and reducing the unemployment rate.  The author of the blog, Recipe for Success: Fixing the economy one job at a time, focuses on what each candidate has planned to lower the unemployment rate as well as the impact of each of these plans.  The Iron Baker, the author of this blog, simplifies the strategies for fixing the economy by laying them out in the same way a chef prepares his or her ingredients. “Ingredients” discussed in this blog include unemployment benefits, military spending, and government jobs vs. private sector jobs.  The Iron Baker analyzes each of the economic plans proposed by President Obama and Governor Romney by discussing the pros and cons of each.  In showing readers how the economy and unemployment may be impacted depending on who the next President is, the Iron Baker also proposes an economic plan to act as a compromise between the different plans.  In reading this blog, a reader becomes informed not only about what each candidate has planned to create more jobs but why, how, and when they plan to implement their policies.  Recipe for Success provides readers with “food for thought” (pun intended) regarding the economy and the unemployment rate as it is debated in the 2012 Presidential Election.

While higher education, health care, and the economy are all topics important to be informed about considering the amount they are discussed and debated, it’s also important to know about the issues that aren’t in the spotlight.  One such issue is the War on Drugs.  As a young adult, college student, female, American, or however I put it, I have at one time or another been impacted by the presence, use, or selling of drugs in this country.  In fact, nearly all citizens have been impacted by drugs throughout their life in one way or another.  For this reason, I now turn your attention to the blog titled 2012 Election which discusses the War on Drugs. The author of this blog discusses each Presidential candidate’s plan of action for the War on Drugs as well as how the War on Drugs originated.  In reading this blog, a follower learns about how drugs are brought into the US and where the majority of them are coming from, which turns out to be Mexico.  The author of 2012 Election also discusses the hotly debated topic of whether or not marijuana should be legalized. To help readers understand this debate, the author points out the arguments for each side and why marijuana use is often deemed beneficial.  To further their reader’s understanding of the War on Drugs, the author provides an in-depth analysis on the history of this war, the increase of illicit drug use in America, and how this war has an impact in the Presidential election. I recommend reading this blog not only to understand the War on Drugs but also to see how this issue relates to other issues in the election, like immigration.  Not sure if either candidate’s position on the War on Drugs will impact who you vote for? Check out 2012 Election to find out!

 

Don’t be THAT guy he’s talking about! Get informed! Read these blogs!

“Links” to Higher Education

2 Nov

As someone who is still relatively new but beginning to feel more comfortable in the world of politics, I know how easy it is to get lost in all the information about candidates and their issues provided by the Internet and the media.  To simplify things, I have provided below a list of links providing basic information on the issues of higher education in the political world.

1.  For a better understanding of President Obama and the Democratic party’s position on higher education, check out this “Issues” page from his official campaign website: http://www.barackobama.com/education?source=primary-nav This link discusses President Obama’s continued support for the Pell Grant program and also outlines his stance on other education issues if you are interested.  To learn specifically about his Student Loan Reform, check out this link: http://www.barackobama.com/education-calculator.  For an in-depth look at what President Obama is doing for education, take a look at The White House page: http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/higher-education

2. To learn about what Governor Mitt Romney and the Republican party want to do to make higher education more accessible and affordable, check out this link to his campaign website to see how higher education policy will be changed if Governor Romney is elected President on November 6, 2012: http://www.mittromney.com/issues/education  To see how higher education fits into Governor Romney’s Five-Point Plan to create jobs in America click here: http://www.mittromney.com/JobsPlan

3. One reason I chose higher education as the topic of this blog is because of the importance of obtaining a post-secondary education to compete in today’s job market. The importance and value of a higher education are also topics often discussed in today’s political debates when the accessibility and affordability of college are being stressed.  For a better understanding of why a college education is important, check out this link: http://dotschools.com/blog/200-reasons-why-college-education-is-important/ Also, to learn more about why the value of a college or university degree is being questioned due to increasing tuition costs, check out this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/blogs/next/2012/01/11/the-value-gap/

4. Another reason why higher education has become such a controversial political issue is because of the rising amount of student loan debt.  The following link provides student loan debt figures for 2010 and 2011 as well as background information on why so many students are having to depend on loans to pay for their college costs:
http://www.fastweb.com/financial-aid/articles/2589-total-college-debt-now-exceeds-total-credit-card-debt . For more information on just how rapidly college costs have risen since as many as 30 years ago as well as the current amount of student loan debt, check out this link from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/cost-of-college-degree-increase-12-fold-1120-percent-bloomberg_n_1783700.html . This article by the Huffington Post also has links embedded within it for a wide range of information regarding tuition costs and student debt.

5.  To see how rising college costs and student loan debt are expected to impact the future of higher education, check out this report from the CQ Researcher: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2011102107 Also regarding the future of higher education, there has been a lot of talk about whether or not colleges and universities will be forced to increase the amount of online learning offered in order to lower costs while still providing an education to students.  To learn more about the prospect of institutions using online learning as well as a survey given to experts in the field about how much higher education programs will change due to online learning, click on this link: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Future-of-Higher-Education/Overview.aspx

I hope all of these links are helpful in your understanding of higher education in the political world.  While these articles are just a few of the thousands that can be found, I believe that reading the information provided by these sources will qualify you to be an educated citizen when it comes to the political debates concerning higher education and its’ future. Happy reading!

Higher Education; What the Future Implies

1 Nov

It is obvious that higher education is not a problem-free issue in today’s political world.  The problems in the United States’ higher education system can be seen just by turning on the television to tune in to your local news station.  Nearly everyday, especially now during an election year, student loan debt, rising tuition costs, and how the next President will make colleges and universities more affordable are topics of discussion during news reports.  In earlier posts, I have discussed the positions of both presidential candidates and their affiliated parties on how to solve the problems in America’s higher education system.  I have also theorized that a way to bring an end to controversy between these opposing sides would be to develop a higher education policy that acts as a compromise between the two.  At this time though I have come to wonder, what does the future look like for colleges, universities, and students if the issues in the higher education system go unsolved?

In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and Elon University, 1,021 experts in the field of higher education were asked what they believed higher education would be like in 2020.  39% of those surveyed agreed that higher education would be much the same as it is today even though there may be an increased dependence on the use of technology due to college and university costs being so high currently. 60% of those surveyed agreed that the higher education system will be drastically different by institutions having to move towards the use of online learning to decrease costs.  As for what I think of the future of higher education, I agree with the 60% that believe there will be drastic change if the issues of college costs are not solved. One of those 60% that I agree with, Professor Barnes from Guangxi University in China puts it best by saying, “the high and growing cost of university education cannot be sustained, particularly in the light of growing global demand for such education.” Professor Barnes also points out that colleges and universities will shift to using the Internet as way of delivering education in a more “economical and efficient mode.” Like Professor Barnes and the rest of that 60%, I believe that if costs continue to rise, many institutions will have no choice but to increase the amount of online classes.  An increase in dependence on online learning in the future also leads me to wonder how students and parents will feel about what the education they are receiving is worth.  In an article from The Chronicle on Higher Education, editor Jeff Selingo, describes how the importance of a college degree in today’s job market has caused students and their parents to continue to pay college and university tuition costs even as they have increased rapidly.  This continuous willingness to pay is evidenced by the $110 billion in student loans that was borrowed last year.  As tuition costs continue to grow if the federal government cannot stop them, I believe that in the future there will still be high demand for a college degree from students but that more pressure will be put on colleges to prove what the students are paying for is worth the cost.  While prospective graduates will still be willing to pay to earn a degree, they will become much less willing to attend “any college at any price” as Selingo says.  It is for this reason that I believe if the federal government can do nothing to effectively increase accessibility to higher education by lowering tuition costs as well as the national student loan debt, not only will colleges and universities increase the amount of online or “hybrid” learning offered, but students around the country will take advantage of it.  Not only will the move to hybrid learning reduce costs for colleges, leading to a decrease in tuition costs, but students will also be able to learn just as effectively as if they were in a traditional classroom setting.  Hybrid learning is a form of education in which the student receives the majority of their instruction online while also getting weekly face-to-face time with the instructor.  While some may not agree that hybrid learning is as effective as traditional learning, a study by the Brookings Institution shows that hybrid learning in fact “does no harm” to the student’s comprehension of material.  In the study, students on six different public university campuses were assigned in seven goups at random to take an introductory statistics course through either online learning with one hour of face-to-face instruction each week or through traditional classroom learning.  The results showed that students who took the hybrid form of the class did just as well as those who took the traditional form in terms of pass rates and exam scores.  The results of this study show that while the future of higher education may be up in the air right now (or at least until November 6th), online learning is a solution that colleges can provide for students themselves if the federal government is unable to.

In summary, I believe that the future of higher education lies in the development of online learning. If tuition costs are allowed to increase by 1,120%  in the next 34 years as they have since 1978 and the government does nothing to reduce the current student loan debt of $1 trillion, higher education institutions will look towards technology as a means of providing the demanding students of the USA wanting to compete in the job market with a degree. The future of higher education will become more clear on November 6, 2012 when either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is elected President of the United States.

For more on online learning in higher education, check out this video!

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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