This open letter is to all my students: the lefties, the righties, the in-betweens, the first generations, the legacies, the undecided and the undeclared, the absolutists and the atheists, the Pell granters, the parent payers, the dreamers and doers and those who dream to do.
This is for you.
I have overheard some students say that President Barack Obama has not done “enough for me.” That’s a fair sentiment I suppose, but before I spit out some truths, just know that your question, “What has Obama done for me?” implies you believe in the government’s role to do something for you. To provide or invest in you, yes?
So, here’s the truth: Since Obama has been in office, his administration has been investing and supporting you, the college student. You actually have been one of the greatest beneficiaries of his policies.
Here are a few of them:
Truth: Just three years ago your federal loans were being handled by a middleman (a bank) and it cost you and the government a lot more to loan you money for school. How much? In 2008, an undergraduate student loan had a fixed interest rate at 6.8 percent. Today, it’s at 3.4 percent.
Truth: In 2011, the Obama administration created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helped 9.4 million students and families afford higher education, maybe including you.
Truth: Obama doubled funding for Pell Grants so more Americans can afford college, maybe you.
Truth: Knowing that many people took out loans before he was in office, Obama capped federal student loans at 10 percent of income. Maybe this is helping you.
Truth: We all know you can now stay on your parents health insurance (if they have it) until 26, which means you don’t have to email me and say, “Hey, I can’t come to class because I’m sick. I’m thinking pneumonia and I don’t have health insurance so I can’t get antibiotics, but I’m taking Benadryl, maybe it will help.”
Truth: In the last 3.5 years, college students have had an easier ride on the pocket book from the costs of books, as professors like me are required to list them electronically so students can shop around for the best price.
The Obama administration has been most engaged in education from head starts, to graduate school finish lines, to races to the top, to investments in research, community college job training programs, best practices in school reform, college access and community service.
You may want to vote for Romney or someone else because of your beliefs, values and/or hopes, but if any of your beliefs, values and/or hopes are in a government’s role in “investing in you,” then you will be sadly disappointed.
Romney and his team are cutters, not creators. They invest, but not in public programs and people, but in a world of for-profit colleges, private equity and private schools. Take note that programs which have become common place in our college world, such as Upward Bound, Veterans Upward Bound, McNair Scholars, AmeriCorps, Learn & Serve and NSF programs, which provide jobs, “real-life” experiences, training, innovation and opportunities to thousands of students, will be slashed – making your journey during college less lucrative, accessible and civically engaged.
The difference between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates this year is stark. Obama believes deeply and personally in a government’s role to invest in you. Romney’s beliefs, which are documented and recorded, are that you should fund, invest and guide yourself. The choice is yours.
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