Congressman Bruce Braley said there are stark differences between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney in the area of education funding.
Braley, the U.S. representative for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, spoke to Wartburg College students in the Konditorei Thursday as part of the Obama campaign’s “#CampusTakeover” event. He encouraged students to vote early and to consider his and Obama’s plans to keep student loan interest rates low.
“This election has enormous consequences for college students,” Braley said. “If we don’t fight to keep student debt low, it’s going to discourage students from going to college.”
Braley, a Democrat, said he and Obama are working to keep student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent. He said his opponent, Ben Lange, a Republican, wants to double interest rates on student loans. If interest rates rise to 7.5 percent, Braley said that would add up to about $10,000 more in an average student’s debt.
“That’s money you could spend on a car, a home, give to a charity or contribute to the economy,” Braley said.
Braley said Romney suggested that kids borrow money from their parents to pay for college. Braley said that wasn’t an option for him because his parents didn’t have the money, and he knows this is true for many students.
Braley said he has increased funding for Pell Grants and is working to renew the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a college tax cut that provides $2,500 for tuition and fees. Braley said Lange would cut Pell Grant funding, which would mean 221,000 Iowa college students would lose scholarship money.
When asked about lowering the cost of college, Braley said college prices are determined by bodies of each college, like a Board of Trustees or a Board of Regents.
“Students need to engage in that conversation with the Board of Regents,” Braley said.
The congressman also shared his plan to promote job growth in Iowa. His current focus is on providing manufacturing jobs that were lost in the Recession.
“We want to provide opportunities for everyone, no matter what their education,” he said.
Braley said he supports the “Back to Work Act,” a bill that would give employers a tax credit if they hire an unemployed worker and would give them a bigger credit if they keep that employee working for a year. Braley said these newly hired workers will no longer need to be paid unemployment, can pay taxes and give back to the economy.
Braley said with Romney’s tax plan, taxes on the middle class would increase, and for students paying off student loan debt while working at an entry-level job, that’s a huge obstacle.
Cassie Crotty said even though she doesn’t share the same views as Braley, “it’s always interesting to see how people on the other side of the aisle think.”
“He made a lot of good points about tuition that I hadn’t thought about,” she said.
Braley said he visited Wartburg because speaking with college students makes him a better representative.
“Students that are focused on their education are often engaged in what’s going on in their state, their nation and the world and they have great questions that are going to shape their future,” Braley said. “Education is so important, not only to the students who are attending right now but to their economic futures.”