Are Our Politicians Anti-Education? Scandalous Remarks From Both Sides
There’s no question that certain political currents in America today are notably hostile to higher education, and some politicians have been more willing than others to give those opinions a voice. Here are a few gaffes from major politicians about higher education—some of which may shed some light on their views toward education in general and college in particular; others of which only display ignorance of the facts.
Romney’s support for for-profit colleges is well-documented. According to an article in the New York Times*, he was quoted as saying for-profit colleges “hold down the cost of public education” and suggesting students concerned about college costs should enroll in for-profit schools.
These statements on their own show that Romney is out of touch with the latest news—or even fairly old news—about for-profit universities. In August of 2010, the Government Accountability Office released a report after randomly studying 15 for-profit institutions. It was found that in 14 out of 15 cases, the for-profit schools were dramatically more expensive than private colleges. For example, a for-profit would charge $14,000 for a certification program that would cost $500 at a public community college; $38,000 for an Associate’s Degree that would cost $5,000 at a public school; and $61,000 for a Bachelor’s Degree that would cost $36,000 at a public institution.
But perhaps even worse, Romney has strongly endorsed a for-profit school called Full Sail University, using it as an example of what’s right with for-profit education. In all cases, he neglects to mention that the chief executive at Full Sail is co-chair of Romney’s fundraising team in Florida. Romney has also been given financial contributions from the private equity firm that owns Full Sail.
Vice President Joe Biden
During appearances at high schools in Pennsylvania and Ohio, Vice President Biden made comments about the reason for college tuition hikes that have offended college faculty in both states. “Salaries for college professors have escalated significantly,” he noted, going on to explain that competition for the brightest professors is high, driving salaries up.
Vice President Biden may not be familiar with what’s going on in higher education recently. According to the American Association of University Professors***, average salaries for full-time members increased by just 1.4% between 2010 and 2011—compared with average tuition growth of 3.2-8.3% nationwide as reported by the College Board**.
Recently, Gingrich implied that Mitt Romney was unsuited to the job of President in part because he speaks a foreign language. At the end of the video, which generally took Romney to task for past moderate positions, the message takes a bizarre turn—stating “Mitt Romney will say anything to win ... and just like John Kerry, he speaks French.” The ad then shows a clip of Romney introducing himself in French. From the standpoint of many viewers, the ad says more about Gingrich’s intolerance toward education than about Mitt Romney’s qualifications for Presidency.
During a campaign appearance in New Hampshire, Rick Santorum leveled charges at President Obama for “hubris” and “elitist snobbery” for promoting an education agenda that tries to make college accessible to everyone. “Who are you?” Santorum demanded in an impassioned speech. “Who are you to say that every child in America go…I mean, the hubris of this president, to think that he knows best for you.” Santorum went on to say that promoting college attendance is “the kind of snobbery that we see from those who think they know how to run our lives.”
*New York Times: Mitt Romney Offers Praise for Donor’s Business
***American Association of University Professors
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Education
ABC News: Newt Hits Romney’s French Connection
Youtube.com: Newt Gingrich Campaign Ad
The College Board
New York Times: Rick Santorum’s Anti-College Rant
Inside Higher Ed: Presidential Race Brings Scrutiny to Candidates
Government Accountability Office
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