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Congressional Candidates Discuss Ways to Make College Affordable

To help readers make a choice in the congressional election on Tuesday, Patch asked the candidates where they stand on making a college education affordable for all Americans.

Credit: North Baltimore Patch
Credit: North Baltimore Patch
By Susan Petroni

The College Board in a survey said a "moderate" college budget for an in-state public college for the 2012–2013 academic year averaged $22,261, while a moderate budget at a private college averaged $43,289. College cost costs continue to rise and some say it is becoming unaffordable for some Americans.

On Tuesday, voters in the 5th Congressional District will decide which individual will be the district's newest U.S. Representative.  The person will replace former representative Sen. Ed Markey. Congress is likely to take up reform of the Higher Education laws.

Patch asked each of the candidates a series of questions. The answers to those questions will be published now through Sunday,  Dec. 8. Candidates who responded to the questions were Democratic candidate Katherine Clark, a state senator who lives in Melrose, Republican candidate Frank Addivinola, a Boston lawyer and Independent candidate, James Hall, an attorney from Arlington.

Today's report focuses on affording a college education.

Patch asked: "There's been a lot of discussion about the cost of a college education. President Obama has proposed a ranking system tying student loan rates and payments to the job placement and salary rates of graduates compared to a school's total cost. Is this a proposal that works for the fifth district, which has a significant number of colleges and universities?"

Clark: "The research clearly demonstrates that young people who obtain college degrees have higher incomes and better job prospects for the rest of their lives. But college needs to be more affordable for families and our students, with rates on Pell Grants and other student loans kept to a minimum. 

"I want all three of my sons to go to college. But like any mother, I want to see college tuition prices and student loan rates that don’t sink our families and leave our children debt-ridden for years to come. There is no excuse for Congress failing to act as student loan rates doubled for millions of young Americans earlier this year.

"I believe we also need to take steps to keep the costs of future higher education at reasonable levels. One concern about the current ranking system that has been raised by academic leaders in this Congressional district is that we have to avoid judging the worth of a college or university by future salaries alone and use a comprehensive assessment. For example, we don’t want to cast a college aimed at training teachers as not being a good consumer value primarily because starting salaries for teachers are low."

Addivinola: " I agree that college education is very expensive and places significant financial burdens on graduates.  As someone with extensive experience in the American higher education system as a student, instructor and private consultant for graduate school applicants, I have a perspective on this issue.

"The President’s proposal, while aimed at helping students, is flawed in several ways.  We cannot shift the focus from the quality of education and have government pick winners and losers as such a policy usually turns into a disaster. 

"A metric of job placement and salary rates would hurt students who graduate from schools that have high placements into graduate schools, public service and other fields where we need talent.

"When determining a school’s eligibility for federal loan programs, the focus should be on the overall quality of education. With respect to interest rates, student loans are guaranteed by the federal government and therefore financial institutions that underwrite these loans should be subject to free market competition to ensure that the interest they earn is reflective of the low risk level of these taxpayer-backed loans."

Hall: "We should be extending free public education (no charge for tuition), which we presently have on the primary and secondary level, to public community colleges and eventually to public four year state colleges." 

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