Four Republicans are currently engaged in a fierce campaign over
who will challenge Obama in the upcoming presidential elections in
November. Former private-equity guru and Governor of Massachusetts,
Mitt Romney, is currently leading the race for presidential
candidacy. Top challenger and right wing favorite, Rick Santorum,
is trailing 11% behind Romney's 35% support in national polls.
Then there is also Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich which are
currently seen as underdogs given limited support in polls. A game
changer in these primary elections will be impending Super Tuesday.
On March 6, ten states will vote on the candidates at once.
Past campaigning focused so far on economic (tax regime, job
creation), ethical (gay marriage, abortion) and national security
issues (war on terrorism). What is more interesting, however, is
how these Presidents-to-be want to shape policies in research and
higher education. ScienceGuide compiled some of their statements in
the following overview.
Romney: boost for-profit higher education
"Our institutions of higher learning just keep passing on higher
and higher costs. They don't recognize that they need to compete,
that they need to keep their prices down." Mitt Romney favors for-profit higher education,
but has very little to say about student financing.
On his official campaign homepage he features a list of "issues"
of pressing concern. Higher education is not mentioned there. What
Romney's views are on student loans, Pell grants and HE policy is
Still, he believes that America's skills shortage should be
tackled by granting permanent residency to foreign graduates with
STEM (sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics) degrees. "One
of the troubling features of the American economy today is the
mismatch between the skill set of the American workforce and the
requirements of the employment market."
Santorum: universities are indoctrination
Rick Santorum has gained particular support
among right-wing, Christian Republicans. Recently, he called Barack
Obama a "snob" with his desire to widen university access. "I understand why
Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their
indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going
on at the university level is a harm to our country. 62 percent of
kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without
Santorum is a strong supporter of home schooling as he believes
that "education should be the parental responsibility. The federal
government needs to get out of education. The state government by
and large needs to get out of education, other than making sure
there are sufficient resources, particularly in poorer
neighborhoods, to be able to help (have) some sort of equality of
education in America … to have the resources to have the best
Although it is not clear what his research agenda would be,
Santorum's rejection of evolution becomes apparent: "What we should
be teaching are the problems and holes and I think there are
legitimate problems and holes in the theory of evolution. And what
we need to do is to present those fairly from a scientific point of
Gingrich: teaching from the White House
PhD Newt Gingrich is the only candidate with a
strong academic background. Being an historian, he announced last
December that he would start teaching free online courses from the
White House if he was elected. He repeatedly voiced his support for
expanding spending on basic research.
Regarding higher education, Gingrich advocated for abolishing
state-subsidized student loans in favor of bank-based financing.
Also he proposed building work colleges in every state where
students are employed on-campus in exchange for free higher
education. This approach is inspired by a small Christian college that
lets its undergraduates work at the university library and
Furthermore, Gingrich supports Romney's approach towards STEM
graduates. "If America is going to remain competitive with China
and India in the 21st century, then we must commit to improving
education. We can even consider a program that grants foreign
graduates of our sophisticated math, science, engineering, and
business programs a work visa with their diploma."
Paul: home schooling over state education
Ron Paul has so far expressed little on
his views on education and research. He is known, however, to
support home schooling similar to Santorum. "The truth is, no big
government spending program can or will solve our nation's