American HE – the Republican way

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2 maart 2012 | Next week is “Super Tuesday” in America. 10 states will vote which Republican candidate they support to challenge Obama in the presidential elections this November. What are their views on higher education and research?

Four Republicans are currently engaged in a fierce campaign overwho will challenge Obama in the upcoming presidential elections inNovember. Former private-equity guru and Governor of Massachusetts,Mitt Romney, is currently leading the race for presidentialcandidacy. 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 arecurrently seen as underdogs given limited support in polls. A gamechanger 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, jobcreation), ethical (gay marriage, abortion) and national securityissues (war on terrorism). What is more interesting, however, ishow these Presidents-to-be want to shape policies in research andhigher education. ScienceGuide compiled some of their statements inthe following overview.

Romney: boost for-profit higher education

“Our institutions of higher learning just keep passing on higherand 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. WhatRomney’s views are on student loans, Pell grants and HE policy isstill obscure.

Still, he believes that America’s skills shortage should betackled by granting permanent residency to foreign graduates withSTEM (sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics) degrees. “Oneof the troubling features of the American economy today is themismatch between the skill set of the American workforce and therequirements of the employment market.”

Santorum: universities are indoctrinationmills

Rick Santorum has gained particular supportamong right-wing, Christian Republicans. Recently, he called BarackObama a “snob” with his desire to widen university access. “I understand whyBarack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of theirindoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is goingon at the university level is a harm to our country. 62 percent ofkids who go into college with a faith commitment leave withoutit.”

Santorum is a strong supporter of home schooling as he believesthat “education should be the parental responsibility. The federalgovernment needs to get out of education. The state government byand large needs to get out of education, other than making surethere are sufficient resources, particularly in poorerneighborhoods, to be able to help (have) some sort of equality ofeducation in America … to have the resources to have the bestcustomized education.”

Although it is not clear what his research agenda would be,Santorum’s rejection of evolution becomes apparent: “What we shouldbe teaching are the problems and holes and I think there arelegitimate problems and holes in the theory of evolution. And whatwe need to do is to present those fairly from a scientific point ofview.”

Gingrich: teaching from the White House

PhD Newt Gingrich is the only candidate with astrong academic background. Being an historian, he announced lastDecember that he would start teaching free online courses from theWhite House if he was elected. He repeatedly voiced his support forexpanding spending on basic research.

Regarding higher education, Gingrich advocated for abolishingstate-subsidized student loans in favor of bank-based financing.Also he proposed building work colleges in every state wherestudents are employed on-campus in exchange for free highereducation. This approach is inspired by a small Christian college thatlets its undergraduates work at the university library andfruitcake bakery.

Furthermore, Gingrich supports Romney’s approach towards STEMgraduates. “If America is going to remain competitive with Chinaand India in the 21st century, then we must commit to improvingeducation. We can even consider a program that grants foreigngraduates of our sophisticated math, science, engineering, andbusiness programs a work visa with their diploma.”

Paul: home schooling over state education

Ron Paul has so far expressed little onhis views on education and research. He is known, however, tosupport home schooling similar to Santorum. “The truth is, no biggovernment spending program can or will solve our nation’seducation problems.”


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