Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s record on education funding doesn’t match the rhetoric at this week’s Republican National Convention.

A GOP report card on education funding

August 31, 2012

A lot of the talk Tuesday at the Republican National Convention centered on government money for education.

In addition to keynote speaker Chris Christie’s talk about his dad going to college on the GI bill, Ann Romney spoke of the John and Abigail Adams scholarship that her husband Mitt Romney started as governor of Massachusetts. The scholarship provides state money to students for going to college. She made it sound like Mitt Romney is committed to government money for higher education.

“I’m not one that says we need to send more federal money toward higher education,” Romney said. He also doesn’t want taxpayers to pay for subsidized loans, like the $3,000 one I received from the government this year to attend MU. Romney even acknowledges that his position isn’t popular, saying, “It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that.” Mitt Romney’s official education plan also says he will “partner with existing private-sector entities to create consumer-friendly data.” Sounds like the student loan emails companies send to us — I’ve received 26 such emails since the beginning of July, all promising student loans with little background information.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney cut the budget of state universities by 14 percent. During his time as governor, community college tuition in Massachusetts was 59 percent above the national average. Average tuition at public four-year schools was 34 percent higher than the national average. During his time as governor, tuition at University of Massachusetts rose 69 percent, 36 percent faster than the national average. According to a faculty member interviewed by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Romney and his advisers “simply don’t understand the role of public colleges because they all went to high-priced private schools.”

His running mate’s record on education isn’t any better. Paul Ryan’s much-lauded budget, which Romney supports, raises the interest rates on federal loans like the ones received by me and many other MU students. Under his budget, the interest rate on these loans would raise from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. According to the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “Passage of the Ryan budget would propel the education success of this country backwards for years to come.” In addition, Ryan’s cuts to Pell grants (awarded to 27 percent of undergraduate students) would “reverse our nation’s progress on improving student achievement, devastate our nation’s education system and harm America’s economic future,” according to a letter signed by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the National Education Association and the NAACP.

Mitt Romney’s solution to the cost of education besides cutting student loans and grants? He tells students who ask him this question in rallies to “shop around” or get money from their parents. “We’ve always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents,” he said in a speech at an Ohio university. News flash, Mitt Romney: not everyone has a millionaire father like you. Thirty-four percent of undergraduates get Stafford loans — loans only awarded to people of need.

Where does Barack Obama stand on education? He’s doubled spending on Pell grants, created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which the IRS says is helping more people pay for college, and he has proposed the Pay-As-You-Earn plan, capping annual student loan payments for graduates. Romney hasn’t come up with any specific proposals, except to cut funding and say students should “shop around.”

Mitt Romney gets an F in supporting affordable college education.

Photo: Mitt Romney speaking at a rally in Tempe, AZ in April 2012. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared as an opinion column in The Maneater on August 31, 2012.