College tax credit is key for Obama
October 24, 2008 6:52 PM
Having witnessed the impact of the rising cost of education “in very real forms,” Graeme Boushey, assistant professor of political science at SF State, said students are withdrawing from his courses because of high tuition and a lack of financial aid.
On top of a failing economy and a long-winded war that has cost the country billions, Barack Obama will face the daunting task of making college affordable if he is elected in November.
According to Obama’s Web site, the Democratic presidential candidate wants to eliminate federal subsidized private loans and instate a $4,000 student tax credit to make college more affordable to students.
Under the current administration’s financial aid program, there are two different delivery systems for Federal loans. With the Federal Direct Loan program, students receive a loan directly from the government. The other delivery system is called the Family Education Loan, where students take out a federally subsidized loan from a third party bank, such as Wells Fargo. Under Obama’s plan, the Family Education Loan would be eliminated, leaving the Federal government as the sole provider of financial aid loans.
Ramón Castellblanch, president of SF State’s chapter of the California Faculty Association, agrees with Obama’s plan. He said allowing banks to remain in the financial aid process is irresponsible because of the recent credit meltdown.
“[The Family Education Loan] would be another way of rewarding them despite the fact they have mismanaged the nation’s financial system, leading our country into a major recession,” Castellblanch said. “I’m harsh on these people, but that’s my analysis. That’s what I think is really going on,”
On the other hand, Barbara Hubler, SF State’s financial aid director, said if you take the banks out of the picture, then you take the competition out as well. The two delivery systems compete for student business, and students reap the benefits through enhanced service and performance, an effect that would be disabled under Obama’s plan.
Obama’s other solution to the college affordability issue is a $4,000 tax credit. The fully refundable credit would be available to students who complete 100 hours of community service. Castellblanch sees the tax credit as Obama picking up the students’ tab. But Kevin Carey, a policy director for Washington D.C.-based think tank Education Sector, said he’d rather see the money come in the form of a grant.
Carey said the problem with Obama’s tax credit is that the money won’t be available when tuition is due. Carey’s observation raises the question: Will students be forced to swallow tuition costs while they wait for their tax refund?
“That’s a good six months later,” Carey said.
Despite these concerns, Obama’s plan, along with his promise to reform the much-ailed No Child Left Behind Act, has earned the support of many teacher unions, including the SF State’s chapter of the California Faculty Association, as well as the Illinois Federation of Teachers, located in the state Obama serves as senator.
President George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2002. It expanded federal oversight of public education by hinging correctional action or monetary awards on the results of an annual examination. Dave Comerford, a spokesperson for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said while the law is good in theory, it lacks adequate funding to meet standards required by the act.
“We think that Obama gets that and will restructure [the No Child Left Behind Act] in a way that is meaningful,” Comerford said.
Comerford remembered meeting with Obama multiple times during the presidential candidate’s time in the Illinois Senate. Comerford said during his eight-year term, Obama was a strong proponent for early childhood education, and that he’s confident in his policies.
“We think he’s the real deal,” Comerford said. “He’s a good guy.”
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