By Nicole Shepard
The support of presidential candidate Mitt Romney hit a bump in the road for many UVU students and their families after the second presidential debate on Oct. 16, a debate which focused on domestic and foreign issues.
Middle-income families with university-aged children raised concern when Romney said he would, “refocus Pell Grant dollars on the students that need them most.”
“I have been able to ignore Obama’s claims that Romney is attacking the middle class until that comment,” said Lori Pastor, mother of Ellen Pastor, a UVU student. “I’m worried what ‘need them most’ means. I have two kids at college. Will they lose grants because someone in the government thinks [the] middle class doesn’t need them like others might?”
Students, parents and faculty have all wondered what Romney meant by his statement. What is more troubling for some is that a concrete answer doesn’t seem to be found.
“It was vague,” said Cory Duckworth, vice president of student affairs, “and it’s hard to know what he meant by it. But that is the nature of presidential debates and campaign promises.”
Romney’s plans for Pell Grants imply that the dollar amount itself won’t change, but who qualifies for it will.
The potential shift in Pell eligibility is troubling for UVU, particularly because of the culture of the student body.
“Our students are highly dependent on grants, … [and] extremely loan adverse,” Duckworth said. “If drastic changes were made to eligibility for Pell Grants, it could be discouraging for UVU students, and [we could see] a drop in registration.”
Whether or not to be worried over presidential candidate promises feels like a double-edged sword for those living in a country where politics relies on the informed voter to uphold the nation’s principles.
“I don’t think it matters either way,” said Conner Gunn, student. “I don’t even see the point of voting here at all. It’s Utah, I could vote Obama, and it wouldn’t matter, so we’ll get what we get.”
With both candidates claiming the other will only hurt the advantage of American students, it’s difficult to see clearly who would better student life over the next four years.
Obama’s campaign and presidential track record favors helping university students currently in school. Under the Obama administration, student loans lost prevalence and the Pell Grant pool was expanded.
During the President’s administration, Pell Grant use was restricted from three semesters to two a year, which opened up the amount of money available for fall and winter terms, allowing more students access to grants.
Romney’s platform for higher education funding favors graduates. Romney said his main concern is to make sure there are jobs for university grads.
“With half of college kids graduating this year without … a job, and without a college level job, that’s just unacceptable,” Romney said during the debate.
Romney says that he plans on rebuilding the economy in such a way as to add more opportunities for work, so that recent graduates won’t have to digress to their part-time employment they had during their years in school.
“[Either way] we’ll continue to look for ways to help our students access higher education,” Duckworth said. “Because of diligent employees we’ve received grant money that no other university in the state is getting because we are always looking for anything that we qualify for.”