Presidential campaigns address problem of high college tuitions

CBS Morning News (6:30 AM ET) - CBS
August 4, 2004 Wednesday

SUSAN McGINNIS, anchor: For millions of college-aged Americans, Campaign 2004 is the first time they'll be old enough to vote. One of the big problems they face is the high cost of higher education. Both campaigns say they have a plan to address it, but they don't have an answer for everyone. Sandra Hughes reports in this morning's Eye on America.

SANDRA HUGHES reporting: Working this summer at his high school alma mater in Inglewood, California, Honorio Franco is saving every dime. Several public universities in California accepted him, but he opted for an expensive private school, Northeastern University in Boston.

Mr. HONORIO FRANCO (Student): I never looked at the costs because I didn't want that to influence my decision.

HUGHES: But when he opened his financial aid package, Franco learned that despite his mother's income of only $18,000 a year as a maid, he was still going to have to pay more than $12,000 a year for school. By the time Franco graduates, he'll have about $50,000 in debt.

Mr. FRANCO: My mom always tells me that, you know, I sh--I could have gone to a cheaper school. You know, it's the same education. And you know, that way I wouldn't drown myself in debt.

HUGHES: And it is exactly that fear of big debt that presidential candidate John Kerry is tapping into.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts; Presidential Candidate): We need to make it possible for families to again be able to send their kids to school without breaking the bank.

HUGHES: But Senator Kerry's plan for financial aid doesn't help Franco. He chose a private school, and Kerry's plan--$50 billion paid for by tax increases--can only be applied to public college. If a student gives two years of community service...

Sen. KERRY: We're going to pay for their full in-state four-year college public education.

HUGHES: If Franco was to get any more help paying tuition, it would be from President Bush...

President GEORGE W. BUSH: (From January 20) I proposed larger Pell grants for students who prepare for college with demanding courses in high school.

HUGHES: ...33 million additional dollars to the federal Pell grant system. Because that money can be used for a public or private college, Franco could get a little extra, but not much more.

Ms. SANDY BAUM (Skidmore College): Pell has really been the one program that is a need-based program focused on low-income students. We need a higher maximum Pell. We do need more grant aid for those low-income students.

HUGHES: While Senator Kerry is right about college costs--last year tuition at public schools rose 11 percent--the numbers also indicate that during the Bush administration, increased financial aid, tax credits and tax deductions have made it easier for students to pay that tuition.

Ms. BAUM: I think that many of the headlines really exaggerate the problems. Students who really want to go to college need to do the work, need to do the research and find out how they can get funds.

HUGHES: But for students like Honorio Franco, who chose an expensive private school, neither the Bush nor Kerry plan will make his final bill for college that much smaller.

In Inglewood, this is Sandra Hughes for Eye on America.