Obama-Romney: Where They Stand on Education

Obama Leads Romney in Three Swing States: NBC/WSJ Poll
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With student loans and college tuition soaring to record highs, how to tame the educational system is on the minds of many voters—old and young alike.

So what will President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney say they'll do about education if they're in the White House in the next four years? Take a look at their reported positions.

Obama: bama is opposed to vouchers and using any public tax money to pay tuition at private schools. He and other voucher critics have cited studies showing that children attending private schools with vouchers did not perform better academically than children in public schools.

The Obama administration has said giving tax money to private schools drains resources from public schools. However, Obama has allowed government funding for a $17 million voucher program created by Congress for Washington, D.C., schools.

In his first term, Obama approved waivers freeing states from the toughest student and teacher achievement testing requirements of the 2002 Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. And Obama used $5 billion from the 2010 economic stimulus package to create "Race to the Top," a grant competition that has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports. (Read More: Most Expensive Private Schools)

The average tuition at four-year public colleges surged 26 percent during the last four years, as many cash-strapped state governments cut aid to state schools. But federal grants and tax credits sheltered students from most of the increase, leaving them paying only $570 more, as Obama got approval from Congress for a college tuition tax credit worth up to $10,000 over four years and more money for Pell Grants for low-income college students.

However, Obama says he wants Congress to agree to reduce federal aid to colleges that go too far in raising tuition. (Read More: Best Colleges for High Salaries)

Obama wanted to preserve a key federal student loan interest rate at 3.4 percent. The rate had been scheduled to double, an increase the president said would hurt students and parents. Congress voted in June of this year to avert a higher rate.

Obama also wants to tighten federal oversight of for-profit colleges. He has said that too many students graduate from these types of schools in too much debt.

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The Education Department issued rules in 2011 that would deny federal aid to vocational programs that don't meet certain loan repayment and debt-related tests for whether their graduates had obtained "gainful employment." But this year a federal judge ruling all but killed the tests after the for-profit college industry sued to block them.

Romney: Romney has come out very publicly in support of using tax money for tuition at private schools, including parochial schools. He has endorsed voucher programs that have recently emerged in states like Indiana and Louisiana. Romney has also said he would support voucher programs wherever the states create them.

Romney also wants to take federal tax money sent to public schools to help educate poor and disabled children and use it instead for the students to attend private schools, if they wanted to go there.

At one time in his political career, Romney called for the elimination of the Department of Education. But he now said he sees the Cabinet department as a way of holding down the interests of the teachers' unions "and putting kids and parents first."

Romney has supported the federal accountability standards of No Child Left Behind and has said the student testing, charter-school incentives and teacher evaluation standards of Obama's "Race to the Top" competition "make sense."

But Romney has said there is a limited role for the federal government to play in K-12 education—and that's mostly to provide funding for the education of poor and disabled students.

Romney said he would likely cancel Obama's 2010 student loan overhaul that expanded direct government lending—and cut private lenders out of the federal loan market.

Romney contends that the private sector is better able to inform students about their financial obligations when they apply for loans. And Romney has said that the increase in federal student aid had encouraged college tuition to go up. Instead, he contends private lenders will help drop tuition rates. (Read More: 10 Tips to Get Out of Debt)

And Romney would scrap the Department of Education's rules on "gainful employment" that target for-profit colleges. Romney said if elected, he would ease regulation on for-profit education in an effort to promote innovation in areas such as online learning.