Hulshof and Nixon release dueling education plans

Nixon and Hulshof released competing plans for Missouri higher education students.

With November's elections getting closer, nominees for president and governor have released their higher education plans.

As the Democratic National Convention concluded Thursday night, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., finalized his higher education plan on the party platform.

Part of Obama's proposal promised to eliminate red tape associated with applying for financial aid.

MU College Democrats President Caitlin Ellis said she thinks this change will increase efficiency.

"Filing for financial aid can be so complicated and discouraging because it takes so long and people don't have time," Ellis said. "His idea is to avoid the complex FAFSA program and to streamline the process."

Instead of requiring students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid annually, Obama proposes to add a check box on tax forms that would release the information the government needs to distribute federal funds to qualified students.

Presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed his desire to revamp the nation's community college system, according to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"We need someone who's looking out for students," MU College Republicans Chairman Jonathan Ratliff said.

In the Missouri gubernatorial race, Democrat Jay Nixon also has focused on community colleges. Missouri College Republicans Chairman Jeremy Hagen said Nixon and McCain's similar views display McCain's willingness to work across party lines.

"It's another demonstration of McCain's tendency of doing what he thinks is best for the country," Hagen said. "It shows he's put aside partisanship, opting instead for common sense solutions to issues that will make the average American's life better."

Pending a victory in the upcoming election, Nixon plans to expand the current A+ Schools Program by granting tuition-free education to students who meet certain requirements. Complementing A+, the Missouri Promise Plan could be used after completing two years of community college at any university in the state, Nixon spokesman Oren Shur said.

"Community college was a step," College Democrats volunteer Chris Blume said. "The expansion of A+ is just another step up."

Among the plans offered by politicians statewide and nationally, Ellis said he likes the Missouri Promise Plan the most.

"It is legitimate to help make sure more Missouri students get through college," Ellis said. "He's (Nixon) expanding an existing program and making it more available-yet maintaining high standards."

Some of the standards necessary to for receiving tuition grants include maintaining a 3.0 GPA, completing 50 hours of community service each year and avoiding run-ins with the law.

"It's not just free college; you have to work for it," Ellis said. "In the process, it makes sure students become well-rounded."

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof of Columbia also recently unveiled his higher education plans.

Hulshof is interested in boosting higher education funding through the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative, which relied on the sale of assets from the state's student loan agency.

Originally conceived by Gov. Matt Blunt, the initiative calls for $350 million for capital improvement projects and an additional $25 million to Missouri scholarship programs. Although this would not be a constant source of funds, Hagen said he thinks it's appropriate.

"(The initiative) is a one-time infusion, but that's not detrimental because the biggest problem in Missouri is funding," Hagen said. "It is a step in the right direction."

Ellis and Hagen had dissenting opinions on which plan would be most beneficial. Ellis said she viewed the combination of Obama and Nixon's plans to be a hybrid solution.

"The Missouri Promise Plan will affect students for years to come, though it might have less of an immediate impact," she said. "Obama's plan compliments Nixon's by being more immediate."

Hagen stressed advantages of Hulshof's proposal.

"When funds become available, it'll dramatically affect student life," Hagen said. "New state of the art facilities will be built, such as academic halls and dormitories."

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