A group of seniors at Nation Ford High School had their own questions they hoped President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would answer in Wednesday’s debate in Denver.
How Obama and Romney addressed the students’ questions is summarized below.
Nation Ford’s Allie Morrison asked: How will the candidates address rising costs of college?
Answering a question about the role the federal government should play in education, Obama said he wants to help keep college affordable.
“Cutting out the middle man” – the “banks and lenders” – and providing federal loans directly to college students has helped keep interest rates low and has made more money available for the program, he said. Ensuring students’ access to college is “how we’re going to grow this economy” in the long term, he said.
Obama criticized Romney for asking college hopefuls to borrow money from their parents and overlooking students “who just don’t have that option,” he said.
Romney said he has no plans to reduce funding for education or for grants that help students go to college and criticized Obama, saying money the president put into green energy could have gone to hire teachers.
Romney answered the question about the role of government in education with a focus on K-12 education. He said he wants students to “go to a school of their choice.” He advocates for grading schools because a system where schools are graded would make them more competitive, he said.
Nation Ford’s Eliza Larkin asked: Can college graduates count on having a job when they graduate?
Both candidates talked about improving the nation’s community colleges and job-training programs and said that was necessary to improve the economy.
Obama said he wants to expand student access to community colleges and foster partnerships between businesses and community colleges so students can be trained for jobs “that exist right now.”
Romney expressed a similar view. Education is key to the “future of our economy,” he said.
But training programs are “housed in the federal government, reporting to eight different agencies, overhead is overwhelming – we’ve got to get those dollars back to the states and go to the workers so they can create their own pathways to getting the training they need for jobs that will really help them,” he said.
Nation Ford’s Jason Damm asked: How will the candidates help young people plan for their retirement, especially if Social Security and Medicare aren’t available?
Neither candidate believes safety net programs won’t exist in the future, but both call for changes.
Obama’s landmark health care legislation includes $716 billion in cuts to what he calls overpayments to insurance companies and providers and redirects that money elsewhere. Social Security, Obama said, won’t need a “major structural change” to ensure its solvency.
Romney wants to give seniors the choice of keeping Medicare or using a voucher to purchase a private plan, which Obama says is “putting seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies.”
Romney also said benefits must be higher for lower-income seniors and lower for higher-income people.
Romney criticized Obama’s $716 billion in cuts, saying Obama isn’t cutting overpayments, but deciding to make and impose the cuts, which will be harmful.
Nation Ford’s David Tebo asked: How do the candidates plan on convincing Americans to make the sacrifices needed to recover from the economic recession and the debt?
Both candidates said they have experience working across the aisle and would do so if elected. They also said how they’d tackle the debt.
Obama called for a “balanced approach” of raising revenue and cutting spending. His plan includes a $4 trillion in deficit reduction with $1 of additional revenue for every $2.50 in cuts.
Eliminating unnecessary spending is another component, he said. “Let’s make sure that we are cutting out those things not making us grow,” he said.
He said his administration has cut unnecessary or ineffective government and education programs and costly waste and fraud.
Romney says he’ll cut taxes, close loopholes and lower deductions, which he says will drive the economy, get more people working so they will pay more taxes.
Romney wants to use a litmus test to decide what to keep, asking if the program is so “critical” it’s “worth borrowing money from China” to pay for it.
Romney would end some programs such as subsidizing public television, send programs back to states to administer, and reduce the number of government employees through attrition.
Jamie Self 803-329-4062