Presidential candidates financial aid proposals offer little comfort to current students

Written by: Matthew Arnold

As the presidential election cycle heats up, President Obama is campaigning on a promise to expand the scope of federal aid, while Mitt Romney platform seeks to decrease the cost of tuition, allowing students to afford schooling without the need for large loans and other aid. For Mercer students, any plan that helps them more easily navigate the financial aid process would be welcome, but for many it would come too late.

Keon White, a first year criminal justice major at Mercer, spoke with The VOICE about his experiences trying to obtain financial aid at the college. White said he was hoping to start his first classes this Fall, but by the end of August he had not received an award letter from his FAFSA application.

Caren White, Keon’s mother, told the VOICE that she never went to college and is trying to provide better opportunities for her son.

“We went online back in February and filled out the FAFSA. Evidently, there was some missing information on the form involving my taxes and they didn’t tell me until now. They are requesting a tax transcript for both of us.” Caren continued, “[Applying to college] is a first for us, and we don’t really know how this works.”

Keon and his mother resubmitted their forms, and they must wait for the new paperwork to be processed before they will know whether they will have enough money for Keon to continue his classes.

“I think there should be more help for the first time people who don’t know anything about this. I was expecting to sit down with somebody today who would tell us how much we needed and how to get it.” said Caren.

When asked what he thought of the financial aid system as a whole, Keon said, “I feel like they should have people to guide you through it instead of doing it through email.”

The presidential candidates proposals, policies and priorities are very different and it seems Obama’s would be more useful to students, though it might not eliminate the headaches associated with applying for financial aid.

During his past four years in office President Obama has already done many things to try and help people obtain higher education. Barakobama.com says “President Obama made college more affordable by doubling funding for Pell Grants, increasing the number of recipients from 6 million to 9 million since 2008.” According to whitehouse.gov, President Obama is currently working on a “pay as you earn” proposal that will reduce monthly student loan payments to 10 to 15 percent of a person’s discretionary income. This income-based payment system would cap payments at an amount intended to be an affordable level based on income and family size.

Romney, by contrast, thinks too much aid is the problem. In to “A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education,” Romney says “during the period that the cost of tuition increased 439 percent, federal spending on Pell Grants increased 475 percent —- yet this has only fed the growth in costs.”

Romney’s stump speech and campaign materials show that he feels that increased government aid, such as the rises in available funds for the Pell Grant in recent years, is in part the cause of the ever increasing cost of college costs. Romney has indicated that students feel too entitled to financial aid and that the inability to pay should not be so widely accepted.

For Keon White, the problems remain. He says his mother makes enough money in her career to support herself and her son, but it is not enough to cover the ever increasing cost of a higher education even at a community college. And neither presidential candidate has proposed a way to streamline the bureaucratic process and cut back on the complicated paperwork involved in applying for aid.

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Matthew Arnold
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