Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have had plenty to say
about Wall Street and Main Street, but they have said little
about how the economic situation makes it difficult for
students who want to live on University Row. Though college
students are expected to be a deciding factor in a number of
states, including Virginia, the issue of college tuition barely
shows up on both candidates’ radars.
This is Part 1 in a five part series on how the presidential
candidates plan to help students pay for college. This section
focuses on the College Cost Reduction Act and federal grants.
When it comes to their voting records, the two candidates are
almost diametrically opposed. Overall, a look at their records
shows that Obama is for increasing Federal funding, tax credit
and loan forgiveness for college students, often in return for
public service. McCain supports more vocational training,
simpler tax benefits and financial aid, as well as expanding
the federal and private sector loan systems.
In late 2007, Congress passed the College Cost Reduction Act
(H.R.2669), which was created to increase Pell Grants, cut
interest rates on student loans, and provide loan forgiveness.
The bill created $4,000 TEACH grants to encourage educators to
get a four-year degree on their subject and allowed members of
military services to put off loan payment, provides partial
forgiveness for public servants, caps loan payments for poor
students, and provides protection for students who have
children or spouses. It also adjusted the income level required
for a grant of federally assistance by $10,000 and provides for
future adjustments. The College Cost Reduction Act was one of
the largest federal aid programs for students this decade, it
passed the senate 78-to-18, John McCain voted against this
bill, while Obama didn’t vote at all.
One of the most important federal programs is the Pell Grant.
When students submit their Free Application for Federal Student
Aid (or, as it is more commonly known, FAFSA) this is one of
the major grants they are applying for. Pell Grants, which are
awarded through 5,400 universities and colleges, are for
undergraduates and certain graduate-level programs.
During his longer tenure, McCain has voted against increasing
the Pell Grant on five separate occasions. In 2005 and 2007,
the two votes that occurred while both Obama and McCain were in
office, Obama voted to increase Pell Grants.