Yes, it’s that time of year again when all forms of mass media explode with slanderous ads and vicious attacks — the true American spirit of democracy. And, in the upcoming weeks, it will get worse. In case you haven’t heard — which seems unlikely unless you have had your head stuck in a textbook for summer term finals — Mitt Romney has added Paul Ryan’s name to the Republican ticket for the presidential election of 2012. Naturally, some are ecstatic while others find this choice laughable. But, what does this mean for college students?
A glimpse at Ryan’s criteria
Ryan’s past achievements include:
- Graduate of Miami University in Ohio, where he earned a degree in economics and political science
- Elected to the U.S. Congress in November 1998 (R-WI)
- Served 14 years in Congress — he is currently in his 7th term
- Chair of the House Budget Committee
- Senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee
Ryan’s voting and viewpoint history:
- 2005: voted for allowing military recruitment on college campuses
- 2006: voted against additional funds for black and Hispanic colleges
- 2007: voted against expanding stem-cell research
- Opposes gainful employment (regulations that require for-profit colleges to show that graduates are able to pay back their students loans for at least three years)
- Has spoken out against more funding for student aid
- Originally supported the interest hike for subsidized student loans, but later changed his vote
- Has a budget plan that includes a reduction of Pell Grant eligibility but keeps Pell Grants at their current interest rate — this same plan hopes to rid the country of discretionary spending
Ryan’s game plan
Right now, some of you may be in favor, while others may be raising your eyebrows at Ryan’s beliefs, especially in terms of higher education. As always on either side, there are a number of critics out there who agree with you. An August 13, 2012 article in Inside Higher Ed by Libby A. Nelson explains “Ryan’s Higher Ed Record” as one that wants “to slash discretionary spending, including federal research funding, student loans and the Pell Grant program, over the next decade.”
According to the article, “Ryan’s proposal would undo the recent expansion of income-based repayment on student loans and eliminate subsidized loans for undergraduates — transforming the federal financial aid programs into a Pell Grant aimed at a smaller number of needy students and offering unsubsidized loans (which have an interest rate of 6.8 percent) to everyone else.”
Before you pledge your undying loyalty to the Democratic Party, however, Ryan explains that student aid increases the national debt, that will, in the end, result in higher taxes. On this same note, Charles Murray fears that Obama’s promise of “making college affordable for everyone” does little if students aren’t mentally prepared to handle the load that most universities expect from their students. This, in turn, may result in a number of students who get financial aid but never actually get a degree.
Another issue worrying many is that giving more money to education may actually increase costs. As far back as October 2011, Ryan has been trying to explain why he feels this is possible, as captured in the ThinkProgress video, “Ryan on Pell Grants” taken during a town hall meeting in Muskego, Wisconsin. Here, Ryan explains that by giving students more money, the system is actually “feeding education” and causing tuition costs to increase.
Exercise your right
Once Mitt Romney’s announcement was made, social media exploded with commentary:
- Twitter fans expressed their disbelief with tweets like: “‘Paul Ryan? Wow, I’m totally voting for Romney now!’ — said no woman, college student, senior or lower/middle class citizen ever.”
- The Facebook page Students for Paul Ryan was created.
- News media everywhere commented on Romney’s pick, from praise to downright abhorrence.
Right now, the November election might be the furthest thing from your mind. Let’s face it, you have books to buy, classes to register for and a new roommate that gives the term offensive a new definition. But, it is never too early to begin researching the people who may end up gaining the most influential positions in the country.
To learn more about Congressman Ryan and his viewpoints on education, visit his Education page, and remember to Rock the Vote in November!