Faceoff: Election 2012

Throughout the election cycle, there has been such laser-like focus on the economy from both sides that it’s easy to forget the other issues impacting society that millions of Americans hold dear. In fact, one of the starkest differences between President Barack Obama and his Republican counterpart, former Gov. Mitt Romney, is on one of the issues most important to our community here at Geneseo: education.

The first step toward a strong economy and long-term debt reduction is a reliable and educated workforce that can best its foreign competitors. The premise behind this is simple: A country without an educated citizenry quickly loses jobs in fields like scientific research, green technology and even so-called back-office jobs like paralegal services.

This results in fewer people earning income, less tax money to fund future government programs as well as pay off the debt and a vicious cycle that leads to more cuts where funding is needed most. That’s why it’s so shocking that former President George W. Bush’s administration left education policy on the back burner and allowed the U.S. to fall to an international ranking of 25th in math and 17th in science, according to a recent Harvard University study.

This is where the Obama Administration made the politically difficult – but correct – choice. In order to make this clear, it’s necessary to contrast its plan to that of Romney’s. Instead of joining the “end the deficit” spending mantra that Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan repeat constantly, Obama has focused on a plan that seeks long-term benefits over short-term gains.

Romney plans to tighten Pell Grant access, ending a number of programs essential to those reliant on financial aid and making it a challenge for students like myself to attend college in the first place.

Romney’s education cuts would devastate schools like Geneseo. In order to fill the gap, students would either have to pay at least double or triple their current tuition, or universities would have to cut their programs by a third. Imagine what would happen to the costs of books, the student-to-professor ratios in classes, the diversity of classes and other such facets of university operation – not to mention the additional layoffs in an already weakened economy.

The president, on the other hand, has spent the last four years strengthening educational institutions in our country. He has doubled the size of Pell Grants, allowing people to continue to be the first in their families to go to school. He’s taken student loans out of the hands of private banks and created a loan program that enables graduates to cap their payment at 10 percent of their monthly income, allowing students to go to school without worrying about debt.

Obama battled republican opposition and prevented the student loan interest rate from doubling this summer from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. He’s even worked with Congress to expand the American Opportunity Tax Credit that has helped 7.4 million families send their kids to school. 

When we discuss social issues, education should come first. As Obama has unequivocally stated, personal decisions like gay marriage and abortion are not issues that the federal government has jurisdiction over.

That means that when we talk social issues, we should talk about the issues our government does control – like our ability to receive an education and join the workforce, strengthening our economy and our nation in the long run. On issues like these, the choice is clear: Barack Obama leads the country forward.

Click here to read the Republican view point.