What Will the 2012 Elections Mean for American College Students?

Barry Lenson

What Will the 2012 Elections Mean for American College Students?

What Will the 2012 Elections Mean for American College Students?  Even though the 2012 presidential election is still more than nine months in the future, it is not too early to make some predictions about what it will mean for America’s college students.

So, what will the elections mean for student funding and the overall experience of attending college in America? I am going to crawl out on a limb and predict that the answer to that question is . . . not much. And the reasons for that prediction are really quite simple. First of all, no candidate in either party is about to lose votes by announcing plans to cut Federal funding for education or student loan programs. Second of all, no candidate is going to announce plans to dramatically invest in American higher education either, because the word “spending” has become poisonous in current campaign rhetoric.

So with that said, here is what we can expect . . .

  • Shrinking state budgets – especially in California, New York, Illinois and other states with large populations – will cause further cutbacks in funding for state university systems. (The candidates don’t have to cut educational funding, they can avoid blame by letting states do it for them.) At state-funded colleges and universities, expect to see more increases in tuition, both for in-state and out-of-state students. Courses will be cut, faculties will be downsized due to attrition or the laying-off of adjunct faculty members. In other words, it will be “business as usual” and current trends will continue.
  • Federal programs for educational loans and grants – such as the FAFSA and the Federal Student Aid program – will remain largely unchanged. After all, no candidate is going to openly say that he wants to cut funds for students. The candidates want to give ongoing lip service to the concept that “education is the future of America and American competitiveness,” without committing to spending more on educational programs.
  • Veterans will continue to receive financial assistance in paying for college, thanks to the terrific Post-9/11 GI Bill that was implemented by the current administration. But it would be surprising to see any significant increases in spending in this area too. With more veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan returning home, let’s just hope that the current bill remains funded so it can to provide all the assistance our veterans require.

So the message to America’s students is a mixed one. No candidate who wins the White House in 2012 is going to dramatically increase educational funding. No candidate is going to cut it either – at least until the White House is won. More than ever before, it is up to students to find their own ways to spend less on college, because Uncle Sam is not about to offer you more help than what is currently available.


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