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On The Campaign Trail: John McCain on Higher Education

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ARCHIVE STORY – June 30, 2008 by Mara Strom

Last week, we spotlighted the views of Barack Obama, the (presumed) Democratic nominee, on higher education and financial aid. I promised you then that I wasn’t being partisan — and that we’d look this week at what the Republican nominee John McCain has to say about funding your college education. Well, I’m keeping my promise, but in all honesty, there isn’t *that* much to say.

On Scholarships For Veterans

We know that McCain doesn’t like the Democrat’s proposal to give veterans a free-ride to college. But McCain’s criticism of the bill isn’t a knock on full scholarships to veterans (per se) as much as it is a critique of the bill’s terms: McCain says to give these benefits after only three years (as the Dems propose) actually encourages enlisted men and women to leave the Armed Forces prematurely.

Other than the vet issue, financial aid hasn’t been much of a focus – at least not yet – for the McCain campaign. On his website’s education issue page, for example, McCain discusses his ideas for improving elementary and secondary education but makes no mention of higher education.

On Community Colleges

During a pre-campaign speech in Memphis (in April ’07), McCain briefly plugged his plan to strengthen community colleges as an affordable option for retraining displaced American workers: “We can strengthen community colleges and technical training, and give displaced workers more choices to find their way back to productive and prosperous lives.”

On the Pell Grant

Last October, McCain said in a speech at South Carolina State University that the amount of aid from a Pell Grant should be increased so that it pays for a larger chunk of tuition. In 2008, Pell Grants will range from $400-$4,731 per student.

On Loan Forgiveness

When the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Act came up for a vote in the Senate last summer, McCain voted no. The Act, which was signed into law in September, 2007, created a new public service loan forgiveness program that discharges student loans after 10 years of full-time work in the public service sector. (And just for the sake of transparency, Obama didn’t vote on that one at all.)

None of these indicators are far from shocking, given McCain’s smaller-government brand of Republicanism. The question is: How far will he go to push his ideas on community colleges and Pell Grant expansion (which might also cost the federal government a pretty penny – or three)?

What do you think about where McCain stands on financial aid and other higher education issues? As a student – or the parent of one – do these issues affect your vote in November?

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