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BRIDGE BRIEFING: Mitt Romney & Higher Education

Romney Does Not Care About College Affordability

Romney Said “College Is Not Right For Everybody.” According to Fox News, during an interview on “Hannity,” Romney was asked by Sean Hannity: “Do you think that it’s in everybody’s best interest to get a degree or are people better off going to specialized schools to become a mechanic or an electrician or a plumber? What do you think?” Romney replied “Not everybody is going to go to college, of course. And people have different courses in their life they want to pursue. College is not right for everybody. Some folks have other ambitions and want to go in different directions. So, we want people to have freedom in this country and opportunity to pursue their happiness and the way they think.” [Fox News, 2/28/12]

Romney Suggested Students Facing Rising Tuition Costs Should Get A Scholarship Or Join The Military. According to a New York Times op-ed, “There wasn’t a word about the variety of government loan programs… There wasn’t a word urging colleges to hold down tuition increases… And there wasn’t a word about Pell Grants, in case the student’s family had a low enough income to qualify… Instead, the advice was pretty brutal: if you can’t afford college, look around for a scholarship (good luck with that), try to graduate in less than four years, or join the military if you want a free education.” [New York Times, 3/5/12]

Supports Paul Ryan’s Plan Cutting Pell Grants For 1 Million Students

Romney Supported Federal Budget Cutting Pell Grants By 25 Percent. According to New York Times, “That may be because Mr. Romney supports the House Republican budget, which would cut Pell Grants by 25 percent or more at a time when they are needed more than ever.” [New York Times, 03/05/12]

Under The New Ryan Plan, 1 Million Students Would Lose Pell Grants. According to the Huffington Post, “More than 1 million students would lose Pell grants entirely over the next 10 years under Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, according to an analysis that the national reform organization Education Trust provided to The Huffington Post. And by the looks of it, the Ryan budget, which is slated to hit the House floor this week, would hit the poorest kids hardest. […] The plan proposed by Ryan (R-Wis.), who chairs the House Budget Committee, would chop away at Pell grant eligibility, thereby reducing total Pell grants by about $170 billion over the next decade; allow the interest rate for federally subsidized Stafford loans to double; end student loan interest subsidies for those still in school; and make Pell spending discretionary — instead of mandatory — allowing further cuts down the line. Pell grants, the largest source of federal financial aid, currently help more than 9 million students to afford college. Following last year’s budget standoffs, next year’s maximum Pell grant of $5,645 will cover just one-third of the average cost of college — the smallest share ever.” [Huffington Post, 3/27/12]

RAISED TUITION, REDUCED HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING IN MASSACHUSETTS

Romney’s 2004 State Budget Proposal Increased Tuition By 15 Percent. According to The Boston Globe, “Romney’s 2004 state budget, announced Wednesday, includes a business-focused model for state colleges: a decentralized system dedicated to economic growth, which also trims $150 million from the state budget… Romney envisions saving $100 million in administrative costs, yet the plan adds a layer of regional bureaucracy. Schools should focus on training students for ‘great jobs,’ Romney said – but that priority has been in place since the administration of Governor Michael S. Dukakis. The plan’s author is a no-new-taxes Republican, yet his proposal raises most tuitions by 15 percent, which some students say is a backhanded tax increase. It asks outside business people to help craft curricula, even though faculties still hold that power exclusively. Though Romney said the University of Massachusetts at Amherst will not be privatized, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey says it will, some day.” [The Boston Globe, 3/3/03]

College Fees Soared 63 Percent Under Romney Because Of His Cuts To Higher Education Budget As Governor. According to the Boston Globe, “Another shift hit students at state colleges and universities, where fees soared 63 percent during Romney’s tenure, from an average of $2,959 in 2003 to $4,836 in 2007, according to the state Board of Higher Education. The fee hikes were enacted by each campus to offset deep budget cuts of about $140 million, or about 14 percent, during the fiscal crisis.” [Boston Globe, 6/29/07]

Romney Called For $100 Million In Higher Ed Cuts And $50 Million In Tuition Increases.  According to The Associated Press State & Local Wire, “Romney’s higher education plan calls for $100 million in cuts, $50 million in tuition increases, adding $44 million to financial aid, and administrative reorganization. Perlman said 20 percent cuts to small community colleges might force them to increase fees.” [The Associated Press State & Local Wire, 4/23/03]

Mass. Grant Program For Need-Based Funding Decreased As Tuition And Fees Increased. According to The Boston Globe, “Massachusetts gave out $100 million this year in need-based aid to both public and private college students through three grant programs, no-interest loans, and tuition waivers. Even as tuition and fees at private and public state schools have increased, funding for the Mass Grant program has decreased in recent years by $20 million, state education officials said. According to the Board of Higher Education, 27,276 low-income students received Mass Grants in 2005 compared with 35,107 in 2000. During that same period, residents enrolling in Massachusetts colleges and universities grew by approximately 5,000, according to the board’s figures.” [The Boston Globe, 11/18/05]

Massachusetts Did Not Invest Much In Higher Education Under Romney

Massachusetts Ranked In Bottom Ten Of States In Investing In Higher Education. According to The Boston Globe, “Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, one of three Democratic candidates for governor, is airing three new 30-second television spots that attack the Romney-Healey administration on education, jobs, and elderly issues. Using newspaper headlines, text, and photographs in a split-screen, the ads present side-by-side ‘comparisons’ between Reilly and the Republican administration… ‘On education, compare the candidates. Tom Reilly has proposed new investments in education. Mitt Romney and Kerry Healey came into office and cut the education budget. Reilly supports smaller class sizes. Romney and Healey have eliminated money for them. And while Tom Reilly wants to improve our state’s colleges, the Republicans have actually cut financial aid. Now the state ranks in the bottom 10 in investing in higher education. We need a governor who will fight to improve education.’” [The Boston Globe, 8/10/06]

Massachusetts Spent More Money On Prisons Than Higher Education. The Boston Globe reported, “For the first time in at least 35 years, Massachusetts is spending more on prisons and jails than on public higher education… This year’s state budget included $816 million in appropriations for campuses and student financial aid, and $830 million for prisons and jails, said the report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation… Spending on higher education dropped from 6.5 percent of the state budget at its peak in 1988 to less than 3.5 percent for the 2004 fiscal year, the foundation said… A spokeswoman for Governor Mitt Romney declined to comment on the report yesterday, saying the administration had not had a chance to fully review it.” [The Boston Globe, 11/25/03]

Deval Patrick: Massachusetts Was 47th In The Country For “Spending On Public Colleges And Universities.” According to Bay State Banner, “Excerpts from Deval Patrick’s speech during a campaign rally at Boston Common, Sunday, Oct. 15: ‘What we have built we have built on substance, on a positive message, on the future… And the Kerry Healey campaign has done everything imaginable – and then some – to attack me and you. Rather than talk about her record and her ideas, her campaign and her right-wing allies want the focus to be on old cases I have handled and on my family. But then, if I had her record, I would want to change the subject, too… We are 47th in the nation in spending on public colleges and universities. Mandatory fees are higher than the tuition on many public campuses and the parking garage foundation at UMass Boston is being shored up by hundreds of temporary braces. If I had that record on public higher education, I would change the subject, too.’” [Bay State Banner, 10/19/06]

Romney Wanted To Privatize Public Institutions Of Higher Learning

Romney Proposed Privatizing Three State Colleges While Merging Others. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “In March 2003, just two months after taking office, Governor Romney introduced an audacious higher-education overhaul, proposing to privatize three public colleges, merge several others, and spin off the flagship Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts as an independent institution. He also called for eliminating the job of one of the state’s most powerful and well-connected figures, William M. Bulger, president of the university system. The plan, Mr. Romney said, would save taxpayers $150-million at a time the state faced a $3-billion budget shortfall. The higher-education proposal, he said at the time, was his ‘opportunity to be bold.’” [Chronicle Of Higher Education, 11/23/07]