Former President Bill Clinton promised Thursday that if President Obama wins reelection, “nobody will ever have to drop out [of college] again because of the debt problem.” He was speaking at a rally featuring Bruce Springsteen in Ohio, in a major get-out-the vote effort in the swing state by the Obama campaign. Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s surrogates are also campaigning hard in the state, although they have focused more on jobs.
Clinton made the same sweeping claim about Obama’s success in attacking college debt in his speech at the Democratic National Convention last month. His argument is based on Obama’s student loan reform policies. The former president detailed them again for the attendees at the rally in Parma, Ohio, telling them that they were the “most important thing that Congress and President Obama have done in the past four years that nearly nobody knows about.”
Obama’s student loan reform removed banks from the process so that students can now borrow money directly from the government. The Democrats have claimed this change saved $60 billion, which is now being applied to Pell grants for low-income students and tuition tax credits for families. Students now pay back their loan at a fixed percentage of their income.
Obama also signed a bill this summer that kept interest rates on student loans from doubling. It’s a measure that Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he also supported.
Christine Gregory, a financial aid consultant who works with colleges and universities, attended the Parma rally and praised the president’s effort to keep interest rates low and his focus on community colleges. “They can turn out graduates who are matched to what the employer is looking for,” Gregory said.
Clinton also hit that topic in his speech. He highlighted a community college in the area that had partnered with the Cleveland Clinic to train adults with no college degrees for new healthcare jobs. “We need to build a community college network in America,” Clinton said. “Barack Obama will do it. His opponent will not.”
In the months leading up to the election, Ohio, with its 18 electoral votes, has emerged as an increasingly important swing state. No one has won the presidency without winning Ohio since 1960.
As Clinton and Springsteen stumped for Obama, Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor and Congressman Bill Johnson wound their way through rural Jefferson County, near the Pennsylvania border in eastern Ohio, on a “Commit to Mitt” bus tour. They encouraged people to take advantage of Ohio’s early voting option and to volunteer on Election Day.
Speaking to about two-dozen people who gathered in the rain in Steubenville, Ohio, the Taylor and Johnson focused their remarks on jobs and the economy. Several people in the crowd said they were unfamiliar with Romney’s education policies, but at least one person was a fan of the former Massachusetts governor’s promises to expand school choice.
“I’m in strong support of educational vouchers,” said Steubenville resident Randolph Knob, who came out to hear Taylor speak. “I think parents should have a choice.” He sent his seven children to Catholic schools.
Knob said he believed growing the economy would end up improving education; the more money people earn, the more taxes the government can collect to spend on public sector jobs like teaching, he said. It’s the “best thing that could happen to teachers,” he said.
In an interview, Johnson also spoke of the educational benefits of a strong economy. He told The Hechinger Report that a healthy one would bring down the cost of education