This story was written by Prateek Kumar, Harvard Crimson
As Harvard and other elite universities takes steps to rein in rising tuition costs, Americans continue to cite the ever increasing cost of a bachelor's degree as the most pressing issue in higher education.
According to a recent poll conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Gallup Organization, 42 percent of Americans stated that it is "extremely important" for the next president of the United States to address rising college costs.
The issue was deemed the most important in higher education, above the quality of education. But out of the nine major issues presented, including the Iraq war and the economy, higher education was the lowest in priority for those polled.
The survey asked respondents which presidential candidate they expected would do most to help families deal with increasing tuition costs.
Barack Obama came out on top, with 32 percent of Americans rating him first. He was followed by Hillary Clinton with 19 percent support and John McCain with 10 percent. Twenty-nine percent of respondents replied that they "don't know."
Jarret A. Zafran '09, the president of the Harvard College Democrats, said that he thought it no surprise that both of the Democratic presidential candidates beat McCain in the poll.
"Obama is defined as the candidate of the future and a representative of the younger generation," Zafran said.
"He is more in tune with student opinion today, which is why he would consider controlling the cost of higher education as a higher priority."
But Harvard Republican Club President Caleb L. Weatherl '10 said he disagreed with the survey's results regarding Obama.
"Dealing with the costs of higher education is an important issue that is inextricably linked to the health of our economy," Weatherl said.
"While Senator Obama may be able to give a great speech on the costs of a college education, his policies will hurt the very families that they aim to help by weakening the economy."
Weatherl said Obama's plans to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire and to enact policies that would "fail to allow free trade" would weaken the economy, forcing recent college graduates further into debt.
Although the issue of tuition costs was ranked most important among issues related to higher education, respondents were nearly equally divided over whether the federal government should intervene to control tuition at private and public colleges.
Forty-four percent of those surveyed said that the most effective action the federal government could take to lower costs nationwide would be to require colleges with above-average tuition increases to explain why their costs are higher.
© 2008 Harvard Crimson via U-WIRE