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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Tracking the Issues: College, the Economy, and the Campaign

by Newsteam Staff
February 27, 2012

New York University graduation, May 13, 2009. (Mike Segar / Courtesy Reuters)


The sluggish economy has sparked new debate about the role of U.S. education, such as whether liberal arts or specialized degrees (WashPost) create the best workforce. It also raises new questions about growing student debt (Slate), which the government said today had reached $867 billion (Bloomberg). Many experts say U.S. educational achievement remains tied to the country’s ability to compete globally, and some argue it affects the overall trajectory of economy.

As candidates look to long-term fiscal policy and job creation, education highlights yet another philosophical divide over the role of the federal government. At last week’s GOP debate, Ron Paul said, “There is no authority for the federal government to be involved in education.” Newt Gingrich said that he would shrink the Department of Education “down to doing nothing but research,” while Rick Santorum said he would cut and eliminate education funding from the federal government so that it could be dealt with at a local level. More recently, Santorum questioned the need for the government to encourage a college education saying it devalued people with different skills and dreams.

These remarks come just a few weeks after President Obama unveiled a series of initiatives (EdWeek) to give a boost to science, technology, engineering, and math programs, saying such proposals “help America compete for the jobs and industries of the future.” A recently released report (PDF) from the White House concluded that U.S. businesses will require one million additional graduates with degree in math science, technology, and engineering alone over the next ten years to stay competitive internationally.

Check out what the candidates have to say about the economy in this CFR Issue Tracker.

Suggested Other Reading:

Brookings’ Grover Whitehurst, while arguing for school choice, wrote in a recent in op-ed in Education Next: “The education system clearly has vast consequences for this nation’s economy, society, and world leadership. The federal government has a crucial role to play in protecting and promoting precisely those national interests that lower levels of government cannot.”

Education reform expert Michael Barber said in a November 2011 CFR meeting that history shows that leadership in public education is associated with leadership in economic performance, which is strongly related to power and influence in the world.

A 2011 report from MIT examines the growing earnings and employment disparity among U.S. workers with varying levels of education accounting for a number of factors including shifts in technology, job offshoring, and a declining manufacturing base.

Contributing Editor Liriel Higa and Senior Editor Toni Johnson



  • Posted by susan lindauer intelligence service

    by the way, I wonder how much money the Obama campaign is spending on all those “Joint Michelle and tell Barack that you’re in” ads that seem to be all over the place.
    Especially the “Pet Lovers for Obama” ads, which I imagine are meant to appeal to petophiles.

  • Posted by Nkunzimana

    that stocks bnceuod back from a nearly 700 pt drop and there are serious slides this week but it isn’t the worse one we have had.128 point loss is steep but it is much better than the 700 that it was.The liberals running around yelling the sky is falling the sky is falling is part of the reason for this they are in a panic and DEMANDED a bailout which is only a bandaid. It might get worse but we are ok. The WHOLE WORLD is experiencing the same thing right now .so the world won’t crash!Not to say it isn’t serious .it is I do believe the government will handle this .and solve it eventually!BAD NEWS If OBAMA Is in though .and we will never hear the end of it that it was the republicans but it is the democrats CLINTON did this .don’t be fooled into thinking different. You can’t make money like we did back then and not pay for it now. IT was AMAZING the money we made during Clinton years but it was a false bottom a bubble under false economy and we were in a recession when Bush took office ..but no one says anything about THAT!There was a crash in 1970 too ..Look at history a recession is on average at this time .we go in cycles and we have ALWAYS corrected the situation within two years.Remember too this is a good thing that this weekend is a holiday weekend and all markets are closed hopefully people will step back and take a second look. We are living the housing bubble 45 percent drop right now that is a WHOLE LOT OF LIBERAL caused problems from Clinton !Stock is a sliver of a market based on earnings .companies are going to earn 40 percent less but not all companies are going to go out of business right now ..we are not going to go down.Companies are trading at muliti million dollar lows right now so that means we are going to go up! It will take time..!Just DON’T PANIC!!!!!!! We are senior citizens and we are worried about our 401 K’s and stocks and we have taken a huge hit but we have done this before and it went up before and it will go up again.You cannot solve 30 years of unwinding credit being defaulted in just a few days.Not ONE BANK has lost ONE person’s FDIC money .so it is really not THAT bad yet! Oh and please stop listening to the news ..they can give you facts but they are also VERY NEGATIVE! That is their business to report everything they have 24/7 to cover news and they are fighting for time! So the most outrageous they get the more viewers they get.