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.