Kerry: Students need help with cost of college tuition

If you are a daily reader of the BG News, or just happened to pick up a copy today, education is undoubtedly a priority in your life or the life of someone you love. For those who are going to be educators, the “No Child Left Behind” act is a focus.

For most of us, the quickly rising cost of a college education is our main concern. The future of our county, however, is the heart of the issue.

The lack of support for education from the Bush Administration doesn’t start at the elementary level. It starts from the time children are old enough to start learning the alphabet.

Bush’s 2005 budget freezes enrollment in Head Start programs.This means thousands of children who aren’t enrolled in Head Start right now never will be. His budget also eliminates the Even Start program that encourages young children and parents to read together at home. Even Laura Bush promotes family literacy programs as “the front lines of the battle against illiteracy.”

But it doesn’t stop there.

In case you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, according to the Department of Education, No Child Left Behind was a historical education reform based on stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, encouraging proven education materials, and more choices for parents.

The theory behind the program is one to be applauded. Who doesn’t want to improve schools?

However, No Child Left Behind has been labeled an unfunded mandate. While funding to the Department of Education has increased 58 percent in the first three years under Bush, it is nowhere near what it needs to be. The National Educators Association has said that funding is still $7 billion (with a B) below what was envisioned to fully implement No Child Left Behind. In the state of Ohio, the estimated cost of compliance is $149 million.

Last year, the federal government provided our state government with about $2 million. The missing $147 million was recouped from local school boards and other areas of the state budget, including higher education.

Both John Kerry and George Bush went to Yale. I am one of the 65 percent of BGSU students who rely on financial aid, and would never have been able to attend Yale.

How can we realistically expect these two men of privilege to know what it is like to work 25 hours a week in addition to classes, or to eat ramen noodles every day just to survive?

Well, George Bush got his chance to show that he knew our struggles, and to put it bluntly, he failed.

While it is impossible and illogical to blame Bush for the average 35 percent increase in college tuition the past four years, he is not completely at fault. On average, half of Americans who start college never graduate. In fact at least 200,000 students have been priced out already.

How has Bush contributed to this startling statistic?In his 2000 campaign, George Bush promised to increase the maximum Pell Grant to $5,100. In the past four years, that hasn’t happened.

He is proposing to eliminate the LEAP program, which provided more than a billion dollars in federal and state aid to those who need it. Bush is also cutting $10 million in Perkins Loans.

In an effort to help students afford college, John Kerry is proposing a $4,000 student tax credit each year for four years. Also, basing the loan interest rate on the current markets instead of the government can reduce the interest rates for student loans.

He has also proposed to simplify the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) form. There are more questions to fill out the FAFSA than to get a $2 million business loan.

To continue on with the problems created by the Bush Administration in education would be to subject you to many more facts that are unnecessary if you just look at your Bursar bill.

As mentioned before, the crisis in higher education funding is not solely the problem of the President or the national government, for that matter. The Ohio Legislature is the body that puts the 9 to 9.9 percent increase cap on our tuition every year. Senator Gardner and Representative Latta from Wood County have overseen every one of those increases over the past four years.

In eight days, remember to vote for the future; not just yours and mine, but all those who have yet to know the joy of midterms.