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It can be tough to wade through all the rhetoric to find out what really matters this election season. That’s why we’ve taken the liberty of breaking it down for you. Take a look at the top 5 election issues you should concern yourself with before you cast your vote – because, believe or not, the outcome of the election will affect your education and your future.

1. Student Loans
President Obama put a stop to bank-based lending so that the federal government makes loans directly to students – basically, he eliminated the middle man. Obama plans to continue to use the savings in taxpayer subsidies to increase support for community colleges and the Pell Grant program.

If Governor Romney is elected, he promises to return to private, bank-based lending and shut down the government’s direct student loan program. Romney argues that restoring private-sector competition to the federal student loan program would help lower the cost of college tuition.

2. Pell Grants
During his presidency, Obama has doubled funding for Pell Grants, providing grants for nearly 4 million more Americans. He plans to ensure that the Pell Grant amount increases as scheduled next year.

Romney promises to refocus Pell dollars on the students who need them most, implying that eligibility criteria will tighten. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, proposes freezing the maximum Pell Grant at the current amount for a decade and reducing the number of Pell recipients.

3. For-Profit Colleges and Online Education
President Obama tightened regulations on for-profit colleges through the “gainful employment rule,” which withholds grants and loans from institutions that do not provide training and credentials that translate to a “recognizable” profession. The rule states that a college can qualify for more federal money only if at least 35 percent of its former students are repaying their loans, and it says that students’ annual loan repayments cannot exceed 12 percent of their earnings.

If elected, Romney will work to eliminate the gainful employment rule as well as regulations that define “credit hour,” and require states to authorize distance education programs. He promises to focus on collecting and disseminating data about these schools, not on “complicated and unnecessary” regulations.

4. Affirmative Action
President Obama supports affirmative action in college admissions: “Race is one of many characteristics (including socioeconomic status, work experience and other factors) that admissions officials may consider in evaluating the contributions that an applicant would make to the university,” wrote his solicitor general this year.

Governor Romney, on the other hand, is against it: “I do not support quotas in hiring, government contracting, school admissions or the like,” Romney told the Washington Post in 2008. “I do support encouraging inclusiveness and diversity, and I encourage the disclosure of the numbers of women and minorities in top positions of companies and government – not to impose a quota, but to shine light on the situation.”

5. Illegal Immigration
President Obama advocates passage of the Dream Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children. Obama announced a new policy that allows young people who are illegal immigrants to apply for work permits and for renewable two-year deferments on any action that could lead to their deportation.

Romney plans to veto the Dream Act – he views it as a “handout” – and deny federal funding to public colleges that charge illegal immigrants the lower tuition rates they charge to in-state students. He opposes all “magnets” that entice illegal immigrants to come to the United States.

Now that you know where the candidates stand, be sure to take your stand at the polls on November 6.

 

Robyn Tellefsen

Robyn Tellefsen is an NYC-based freelance writer and editor who specializes in career education. In addition to writing for The CollegeBound Network and Employment Network's suite of sites, she provides proofreading and copyediting services for various publishing companies. She has a bachelor's degree in communications from Wheaton College (IL).

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