Friday, November 2, 2012
Student Loans and the Candidates: Obama's Team Responds, Romney's Camp Remains Silent
Several months ago, I reached out to the Obama campaign team and the Romney campaign team to ask them several questions about the student lending crisis and higher education reform. Read to the end to see how the Romney team responded (spoiler alert: it's terribly disappointing). When I contacted Clo Ewing, a campaign spokeswoman, for the Obama campaign, she was at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. So, as you can imagine, she was, uh, pretty busy. Despite being swamped and involved in, Lord knows, millions of activities there, she provided me with answers in less than 24 hours.
She first made the point to say: "I think it is clear that the Democratic party, including the President, has acknowledged that there is a student lending crisis, and that young people (Millienials) are struggling to start families, buy homes, etc. at this juncture." Good answer (obviously). A lot has change since I asked Jim Messina, Campaign Manager for the Obama Campaign, questions about student loan debt in September of 2011. This exchange took place during a conference call with over 60 student leaders, including AEM. Messina took questions at the end of the conference chat. When asked how the President planned on solving the student lending crisis, and the fact that outstanding student loan debt was projected to hit $1 trillion by June of 2012, which it now has, Messina said, “That’s a good question. The Administration has worked hard to protect Pell Grants and also supports programs that make repayment easier.”
Ewing's response illustrates a different tone, an actual recognition of the problem.
I then asked her a few more questions:
CCJ: When it comes to student loan debt, do you think it will play a role in how younger voters who are educated and saddled with debt will vote?
CE: Yes, young people and their parents are going to vote for what is in their best interests and are going to vote for a President who understands the importance of making college more accessible and affordable.
CCJ: Do you think they are more inclined to vote for Pres. Obama or Mitt Romney?
CE: Young people and their parents are acutely aware of the President's commitment to making college more accessible and affordable. Young people will vote for President Obama in part because they recognize that he has doubled the number of Pell Grants and worked to ensure that graduates will not have to pay more than 10 percent of their salaries on they recognize that Mitt Romney's answer to struggling student is to "shop around" and that he support a budget that would slash student loans.
CCJ: If Romney were to win office, what would this mean for borrowers with student loan debt?
CE: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have made very clear they are not committed to making college more accessible and affordable, which would likely mean fewer students would have access to higher education.
As I mentioned, I also asked these same questions when I communicated with Allie Brandenburger, Regional Press Secretary for the Romney Campaign. She wrote me a friendly note, told me that to send my questions along, and so I did just that. And then I waited for a response. Nothing happened. No one answered. And their convention, mind you, was long over.