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The Daily Tar Heel

A missed discourse

Presidential and gubernatorial candidates should take some time to talk about higher education issues, which have been left in the dark.

As Americans, as North Carolinians and as college students, we all must agree that terrorism is an important issue. Iraq is an important issue. Jobs and the economy are important issues - and all of these topics deserve the weight given them.

But presidential and gubernatorial candidates shouldn't lose university education in the mix.

Governor Easley and state Sen. Ballantine should devote more of their campaign time to talking about how Americans can pay for college - as should President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

With only three weeks left until the Nov. 2 election, it's imperative that we, as part of the voting citizenry, should hear our issues discussed.

Vice-presidential candidate John Edwards has touted the opportunities provided for him in the UNC system, but the future of that system seems to be up in the air here in North Carolina, with major policy questions only half-answered

Republican gubernatorial challenger Patrick Ballantine has had his ideas for major policy changes in the UNC system mentioned in newspapers but hasn't made much effort to bring these up on his own.

His plans include reducing the size and effective parameters of the UNC-system Board of Governors, which now consists of 32 voting members; allowing the BOG to raise tuition, as long as the increases don't affect current students; and helping campus leaders find ways to admit more out-of-state students.

These stand in stark contrast to statements made by Easley, who opposes tuition increases and any shift in the out-of-state enrollment cap.

Easley and Ballantine both failed to make any mention of these issues during their televised debate.

On the national level, the two presidential candidates have continued to squabble over the No Child Left Behind Act, but have failed to verbally spar over the higher education plans that they have both detailed in their platforms.

During last Friday's debate, which touched on domestic issues, the presidential contenders' plans for tuition and financial aid were left out entirely. Hopefully Wednesday's upcoming domestic debate will provide more fodder for discussion of higher education.

It's vital that candidates in both of these races start delineating the differences between their education proposals. Tuition is going up across the country, and it's not just the students in UNC-system schools that are feeling the impact - it's our parents, too.

Edwards highlighted financial aid during his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, but the issue seems to have fallen off of the edge of the earth, buried deep inside the candidates' platforms without much chance of seeing daylight.

Bush plans a 47 percent increase in need-based Pell grants, offering an Enhanced Pell Grant that rewards rigorous high school coursework, and other increases in AmeriCorps Education Awards, loan-limits for first-year students and partnerships between high schools and community colleges.

Kerry offers a college opportunity tax credit on up to $4,000 of tuition per year, a simplified financial aid process and a promise that at least 200,000 students can serve in organizations such as AmeriCorps in exchange for four years of tuition aid at a state university within the decade.

Despite identifiable differences, the value of these policies seems fairly difficult to decipher without the aid of discussion of their flaws and merits.

The proposals should not be hidden deep within each candidate's platform. College students and their families deserve to know more about what each candidate would do to improve college accessibility and affordability - before election day is upon us.

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