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Obama in Ames: Platform leans on students, not tax cuts

BY KELSEY L JOHNSON | AUGUST 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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AMES — President Obama believes a strong higher-education system will lend to a better economy, while Republicans say the president has only temporarily solved an ongoing problem for students.

“In America, higher education isn’t a luxury,” Obama said on Tuesday in Ames. “Higher education is an economic necessity that every family should be able to afford.”

The chant “Four more years,” erupted throughout central campus as Iowa State community members stood in the nearly 90-degree heat awaiting Obama’s remarks Tuesday afternoon.

The president kicked off his two-stop grass-roots bus tour in front of more than 6,000 community members and students on the campus.

The stop marked Obama’s sixth visit to Iowa this year, and his speech focused primarily on student loans and the economy, as well as the importance of everyone’s vote in the upcoming November elections. He will return to the state again with a visit to Des Moines on Saturday.

Speaking to the academic community, Obama said education is critical in creating an effective workforce to drive the American economy forward.

The president said that with the conclusion of the Republican National Convention, those involved will not meet the challenges of our time and will be unable to move the economy forward. He said that his platform is not dependent on tax cuts but is dependent on students.

However, some Republicans say Obama’s student-loan-interest freeze is not a long-term solution to an ongoing issue.

Gov. Terry Branstad held a press conference in Des Moines shortly before Obama’s arrival Tuesday.
“Four years ago, President Obama received enthusiastic support from many students and young people in Iowa and throughout the country,” he said in a press release. “Unfortunately, his policies have failed the young people of America.”

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign platform outlines the need for educational reform rather than capping interest rates on federal student loans.

Shawn McCoy, the Iowa communications director for the Romney campaign, said the goal of the Republican platform is to strengthen and simplify the financial-aid system and inform students and families about the choices they have in obtaining financial aid rather than setting regulations.

Obama spoke in the Field House in April in support of a yearlong freeze on student-loan-rate increases. The increases would have added approximately $1,000 to student loans per student per year, according to earlier Daily Iowan reports. Congress approved the freeze in June.

The issue of student loans is evident on the UI campus, and one financial-aid expert said student loans would likely be a major issue driving students to vote in the November election.

“Student financial aid is an extremely important issue as the elections are closing,” said Mark Warner, the director of UI Student Financial Aid.  “There’s a lot of interest, and there needs to be a lot of continued interest on the federal Pell Grant program.”

Undergraduate students at the UI received approximately $16 million in federal Pell Grants in the 2010-11 school year, Warner said. Close to 20 percent of UI undergraduate students qualify for and receive Pell Gran­t­s — the largest federal student-aid grant that represented more than 6 percent of all federal student aid between these years.

The upcoming election will be especially crucial for students who depend on Pell Grants.

“You’ve got more at stake in this election than anybody else,” Obama said. “Your vote decides where we go from here.”


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