Political platforms and higher education

After clicking to the Republican platform (PDF) from David Weinberger’s blog this morning, I decided to also track down the Democratic platform (PDF) and compare what the two have to say about higher education.

Going solely from the media reports I’ve picked up on, it seems Obama has been talking more about higher education than McCain. But it turns out that, in terms of words, the Republican platform devotes nearly twice as much text to the subject (611 words for the GOP to 354 words for the Democrats). Perhaps Rudy Giuliani wrote the Republicans’ portion on higher ed; maybe the Democrats should have tapped Joe Biden to do their section.

What the parties say about higher education

Even if the GOP platform is long on words, it’s short on specifics. The Democratic platform isn’t much better, but at least the Democrats offer one important specific: a refundable $4,000 education tax credit in exchange for public service. The platform says:

We will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit to ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans. In exchange for the credit, students will be expected to perform community service.

The Dems also promise support for community colleges and training programs, express support for HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), and acknowledge the role colleges and universities play in economic development.

The Republican platform talks more about the importance of access and affordability, without specifics, and also acknowledges the role of community colleges, research universities, etc. But the GOP also devotes a good chunk of type to ideological issues relative to free speech and academic freedom. Under the heading “Special Challenges in Higher Education,” the platform notes:

Free speech on college campuses is to be celebrated, but there should be no place in academia for anti-Semitism or racism of any kind. We oppose the hiring, firing, tenure, and promotion practices at universities that discriminate on the basis of political or ideological belief. When federal taxes are used to support such practices, it is inexcusable. We affirm the right of students and faculty to express their views in the face of the leftist dogmatism that dominates many institutions. To preserve the integrity and independence of the nation’s colleges, we will continue to ensure alternatives to ideological accrediting systems.

Because some of the nation’s leading universities create or tolerate a hostile atmosphere toward the ROTC, we will rigorously enforce the provision of law, unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court, which denies those institutions federal research grants unless their military students have the full
rights and privileges of other students. That must include the right to engage in ROTC activities on
their own campus, rather than being segregated elsewhere.

OK, I guess that part about rigorously enforcing the provision to deny federal research grants is pretty specific.

Both platforms address issues related to higher education elsewhere, but I just looked at the sections related to higher education for this post.

Don’t just rely on my interpretations. Read both platforms for yourself. They will make for some nice weekend reading.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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