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Gubernatorial Candidates Offer Their Education Plans

NORTH AND GILLESPIE ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW TO MAKE COLLEGE MORE AFFORDABLE

By Lydia Antonio-Vila, Staff Writer

The race for Virginia’s next governor will be decided this week, but many Mason students are still on the fence. Fortunately, both candidates have recently come out with plans to make college more affordable – a subject that almost everyone can agree on.

Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie recently answered an affordable college candidate questionnaire from the organization Partners 4 Affordable Excellence @EDU. The group published the complete results from both candidates on their website, partners4edu.org.

One of the candidates’ first questions related to how state colleges and universities will contain costs and control tuition. Both candidates agreed that college affordability is an important issue that they tried to address in their campaigns.

When asked if they would support a cap on tuition increases, Northam said that he would implement the “Virginia Promise.” The plan would involve the state “working with our public universities to guarantee level tuition” for all students. In return, Virginia would provide increased funding to public universities.

“To the extent possible, universities will guarantee financial aid packages will be the same all four years,” Northam said.

It is time to follow through on plans to create a higher education reserve fund in Virginia,” Gillespie answered when asked the same question, “one that will make state support for higher education less vulnerable to economic swings and more reliable and predictable.” Gillespie also explained that he would “work to get spending and tuition under control through incentives and governance reforms.”

The questionnaire also addressed college debt. Innovation and new ideas are important considerations for tackling financial issues in higher education. Both candidates were asked the question, “how will you encourage innovation at state colleges and universities to drive down costs and minimize student debt?”

Gillespie responded by saying that his plan was to pursue “increasing financial aid and work-study opportunities for both low and middle income families.” He also said, as governor, he work with the community to establish “incentives tied to post-graduation employment.”

In Northam’s answer, he explained his plan to create a “centralized website for online learning at all the public colleges and universities.” As governor, Northam also said he would create a “voluntary shared services center to support financial aid and back office services and business transactions for the smaller universities and colleges.”

No matter who you plan to vote for, remember that election day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. For student voters registered at Mason, the polls in Merten Hall will be open from 6-7 p.m. For those who live off campus, make sure you know where to find your designated polling place. And no matter where you live, remember to bring your ID.

Graphic by Mary Jane DeCarlo