A real solution is needed to keep college affordable

College affordability is a growing problem in the United States that has recently taken a turn for the worst. The average price of a decent college education has become so expensive that most students are forced into student loans that are equivalent to house mortgages in order to achieve their degrees.

The situation is grim for American students and with the current economic crisis tightening its grasp on our finances, matters aren’t improving.

Naturally, this issue is going to be one of the biggest factors influencing student voters in the upcoming presidential election. With Election Day less than a week away, it’s crucially important to understand the differences between the two candidate’s education platforms.

John McCain’s Web site outlines various statements about the senator’s plan for higher education, however, the details are scarce and an explanation of action is minimal.

McCain claims that we need to “prepare the 21st century for higher education” and fix the student lending programs – ideas that would indubitably benefit most students. But these ideas are followed by no course of direct action, making McCain’s platform weak and open-ended.

In October 15’s debate, McCain stated, “We need to make [those] student loans available,” and “We need to adjust the certain loan eligibility to inflation.” But, again, these statements come without a plan.

According to Barack Obama’s Web site, the past five years have seen the typical college price increase by 40 percent, leaving over 60 percent of college graduates with an average debt of $19,000.

This has all happened under the watch of President Bush and the Republicans.
Obama’s stance on the education crisis is one of hope. He has outlined two distinct reforms that separate his education plan from that of John McCain’s. The first part of Obama’s plan is the creation of what he calls the “American Opportunity Tax Credit.”

This refundable tax credit would provide $4,000 towards a college education every year for most Americans in return for 100 hours of community service from the recipient. This credit ensures that more students can attend college and in many cases make community college absolutely free.

In addition to the tax credit, Obama’s plan also intends on simplifying the current application process for applying for financial aid. The financial aid process is long and tedious, which is why Obama seeks to eliminate FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and supplement normal tax return papers in its place.

Under Obama’s plan, students seeking financial aid from the government would simply check a box on their tax form, directly giving their tax information to the government for consideration and eliminating the cumbersome process of filling out a separate FAFSA form. This process will allow families to predict their approximate aid and plan for the future easier and faster.

In recent months, we have seen Fannie May and Freddie Mac disintegrate. With the soiled economy and soaring tuition prices added to the equation, students are faced with a dilemma that most never thought could occur: not being able to receive student loans. Now is not the time for a passive strategy, but rather dynamic solutions and a real course of action.