College Democrats and Republicans Debate Higher Education

Ramapo College Democrats, led by Kyle Langston and Sean Keough, and the College Republicans, led by Chris Gabbett and Ashley Rosone, participated in a debate on higher education on Tuesday in the Pavilion.

Both sides discussed issues concerning higher education at both the state and national level. The debate was organized for Higher Education Awareness Week, a week full of events focused on discussing topics that are close to college students’ wallets and futures.

The issues that were brought up during the debate included the “brain-drain” problem, an issue that plagues New Jersey colleges, and the state’s adoption of the DREAM Act.

“Brain-drain” is when high school students go to college outside of their state.

“New Jersey has the highest net loss in the country for college students,” said Rosone. “We do have something in effect called the New Jersey STARS Program for high school students where the top 15 percent of the graduating class gets a full ride to a community college. We feel that we should try to put in effect something right out of high school for four year colleges.”

“[New Jersey] schools need to develop a better Internet presence, and the state of New Jersey needs a better marketing campaign,” said Gabbett, president of the College Republicans.

Langston disagreed, citing money as a big factor.

“One of the reasons we have such a brain-drain issue in New Jersey is that we are asking New Jersey students to choose between the education they want and the education that they can afford right now,” Langston said. “I would suggest the use of regional merit-based scholarships to attract the cream of the crop from the regional areas. We need to start offering more incentives for students to stay in New Jersey, including tax breaks and merit based scholarships and other options.”

Keough agreed, adding that New Jersey has not gained any funding until very recently.

“There was no major change in funding from 1990 until a couple years ago when we voted on the referendum for the state to make a big loan, to get $720 million dollars for higher education,” said Keough. “In that time, our programs have fallen to the wayside.”

The debate then shifted on to the national level and its issues involving higher education.

When asked about President Obama’s insistence that the federal government works to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth, Rosone explained, “I do believe [these goals] are realistic but not on a national level. It’s kind of hard to blanket on the national level who could be considered for this financial aid.”

“The federal government does have a say on student loan interest levels,” said Gabbett. “The federal government has the power to keep interest low, and I think they should.”

The College Democrats countered, pointing out that the federal government has made a difference.

“From 1990, the United States ranked first in percentage of college graduates. In 2010, we are the 12th nation. There is a huge difference within that time. We have significantly decreased our number of college graduates. President Obama came up with a ‘Pay As You Earn’ program that cuts the amount of money that a college graduate would have to pay from their loan to 10 percent, which is two-thirds of what it was,” said Keough. “The Democrats are looking to make… easier more affordable plans to make college more affordable.”

“Since the start of Obama’s first term, the amount of students able to attend college as a result of receiving Federal Pell Grants has increased by 50 percent, which is about $9.7 billion that the government has given to students on a state level,” said Langston.

With both sides bringing up some very concise points, the discussion of politics in the application of higher education will continue to be an issue that we as students will be watching closely.