Bush, Kerry Reveal College Plans

Both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) consider college students an important constituency in this year’s presidential election, and are reaching out to students by working on such issues as rising tuition and helping disadvantaged students.

Kerry’s campaign promises several initiatives, including a “Service for College” program where 4-year students can earn the equivalent of their state university’s tuition in exchange for two years of community service.

“Kerry has spoken out a lot about the rising tuition costs at colleges,” Kerry spokesman Dag Vega said. “He wants a plan that gives students options to lower the cost of their education.”

Vega said that Kerry’s goals include programs to increase student retention. According to Kerry’s campaign Web site, students are more likely to stay in college if they are better prepared in high school and if colleges have support services.

“Black and Hispanic students have large dropout rates,” Vega said. “Kerry will push for a better counseling and support services to help students in college.”

Kerry also supports a program that will allow students to transfer credits from colleges more easily. “When students transfer, sometimes they are forced to repeat courses,” Vega said. “This initiative will encourage colleges and universities to better target their services.”

Vega said the Bush administration is not helping college students.

“In the past three years, they have not taken time to propose concrete policies to lower tuition or help students for college,” he said. “Now they have left students in a lurch in a tough job market.”

Bush’s campaign also makes promises to college students, such as increasing funding to historically black colleges and Hispanic-serving institutions and increasing federal Pell grants by up to $1,000 for some students.

“We think the president has a strong record when it comes to education,” Bush campaign spokeswoman Sharon Castillo said. “His policies make education more affordable.”

Bush has an initiative called “Jobs for the 21st Century,” which is designed to give people work skills.

The president is also focusing on such issues as national security and the economy, which Castillo called “the issues that young voters care about.”

Recent polls have shown that Bush has a lead over Kerry among young adults, she said. “The youth vote is going to be very important,” Castillo said. “Young voters play a key role this year.”

American University students have different views about the candidates.

Prashant Sinha, a junior in the School of International Service, said that he’s leaning toward Kerry.

“I don’t trust President Bush,” Sinha said. “I think the policies he’s making are not doing enough to bring more people to the middle class.”

“I think if more students voted, we’d have more money in grants to go to school,” he added. “We’d be able to influence the decisions that are made.”

Chris Heller, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, does not think the candidates have focused on college issues in their campaigns.

Heller said that the international situation is the most important issue to him.

“Whoever has the best policies for combating terrorism has my vote,” he said.