Posted by: JanF | March 22, 2012

Why I Vote For Democrats: Higher Education

At a time when Republicans are waging all-out war on women, senior citizens, working families and those in poverty (pretty much everyone Not Them, as a matter of fact), it is particularly disturbing to see them wage war on those who merely seek a college education.

It is yet another example of Republicans hoarding not only the nation’s wealth but the means for the rest of us (and our children and grandchildren) to improve our economic lot in life … to find jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine and the other disciplines that require a college degree.

President Obama talking about our future

The Democratic Party and President Barack Obama have been unflinching supporters of higher education because they know that that the future of our country depends on an educated workforce.

The Democratic party has long been a proponent of higher education, beginning with the GI Bill after World War II and continuing to today:

Democrats have long valued education as the key to success, both for individuals and for our nation. In 1944, Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt enacted the G.I. Bill, a landmark piece of legislation that provided World War II veterans with opportunities for higher education. The G.I. Bill represented the single largest investment in higher education ever, and it helped create the modern middle class in America.

In recent years Democrats have further increased access to higher education and restructured and dramatically expanded college financial aid, while making federal programs simpler, more reliable, and more efficient for students. In 2010, President Obama signed into law student loan reform that ended government subsidies to big banks and made college more affordable to millions of Americans—a measure in size and scope second only to the G.I. Bill.

Shortly after his inauguration, President Obama made this promise to our country regarding higher education:

“We will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

-President Barack Obama, Feb. 24, 2009

Many people don’t realize that a week after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the president signed a reconciliation bill that included a major change in how higher education was funded:

The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act represents a historic investment in higher education – expanding educational opportunity for America’s students and families. The legislation strengthens the Pell Grant program, invests in community colleges, extends support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, and helps student borrowers manage their student loan debt. It pays for these investments while reducing the federal deficit by ending government subsidies currently given to financial institutions that make guaranteed federal student loans.

The changes were outlined by President Obama in a speech on March 30, 2010 at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Virginia:

… what’s gotten overlooked amid all the hoopla, all the drama of last week, is what happened in education — when a great battle pitting the interests of the banks and financial institutions against the interests of students finally came to an end…

For a long time, our student loan system has worked for banks and financial institutions. Today, we’re finally making our student loan system work for students and our families. But we’re also doing something more.

From the moment I was sworn into office, I’ve spoken about the urgent need for us to lay a new foundation for our economy and for our future. And two pillars of that foundation are health care and education, and each has long suffered from problems that we chose to kick down the road.

With the bill I signed last week, we finally undertook meaningful reform of our health care system. With this bill, and other steps we’ve pursued over the last year, we are finally undertaking meaningful reform in our higher education system. So this week, we can rightly say the foundation on which America’s future will be built is stronger than it was one year ago.

Just yesterday, a report was released showing that the job market is getting better for those with college degrees:

Unemployment among college graduates up to age 24 dropped from 9.8% in February 2011 to 8.1% last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that is well above the 4.6% in 2008. February’s unemployment rate for the same ages with just a high school diploma was 22.5%.

A college degree is no guarantee of a job but it gives young people a better chance at finding family supporting jobs and to contribute to the rebuilding of America.

Helping our young people go to college is a priority of the Obama administration and Democrats since FDR: another reason that I Vote for Democrats and why you should too.