Lantern file photo
Central Ohio is proving to be an election hot spot for President Barack Obama and Republican hopeful Mitt Romney.
Obama is planning his second visit to Ohio State’s campus in about a month and Romney took a trip about 25 miles north of OSU to visit the campus of Otterbein University last week.
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman stressed the important role Ohio will play in the 2012 presidential election.
“Ohio has been very critical for every president for a very long time,” Coleman said. “Columbus is in the center of Ohio, so to kick it off right here at the Ohio State University in the city of Columbus is an indication of the value of this state to the nation and this city to the nation and the university to the nation.”
Obama and Republican frontrunner and former Massachusetts Gov. Romney campaigned last week to ask Congress to keep federal student loan interests from doubling in July.
Obama made appearances on college campuses across the nation last week, from North Carolina to Iowa, trying to rally students in his effort to stop the increase.
“And just to give you some sense of perspective – for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt,” Obama said in Chapel Hill, N.C. “That’s basically a tax hike for more than 7 million students across America, more than 160,000 students here in North Carolina alone.”
Romney met with a small group of graduating seniors on Friday at Otterbein in Westerville, Ohio, and also spoke to a larger crowd about the economy and student loans. Gov. John Kasich also spoke at Otterbein and introduced Romney to the crowd.
President of OSU College Democrats, Mallory Kimble, said students should be weary of Romney’s position on student loans.
“Especially in light of his support of the Ryan Budget, which would make it significantly harder for young Americans to afford college,” Kimble said. “The plan cuts funding for Pell Grants and education funding that makes it easier for millions of young Americans to attend college.”
The budget, proposed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, is a plan crafted to reduce debt without placing additional tax burdens on individuals and businesses.
Kal Penn, an associate director in the White House office of public engagement, also touched on the Ryan Budget as a reason why Romney is not sincere in his efforts.
“Another major difference that you’ll find is that Gov. Romney supports the Ryan Budget,” Penn said. “Although in recent days he says he wouldn’t want student loans to double, the Ryan Budget would allow the student loan rates to double and cut education.”
Kimble, a third-year in business and Spanish, said she is on a Pell Grant at OSU and would not be able to afford tuition otherwise.
“If Romney truly believed that Congress should take action to prevent student loan interest rates from going up, then he should show leadership by calling on Congressional leaders like Speaker (John) Boehner and Rep. Ryan to support the President’s proposal,” Kimble said.
OSU College Republicans communications director, Niraj Antani, said Obama’s push for keeping federal student loan interest low is purely for political show.
“President Obama’s motives and proposal is nothing but a political show,” said Antani, a third-year in in political science and philosophy. “There is no substance to what he wants to do. He’s attempting to create a wedge issue.”
However, Antani and Kimble agreed the issue of keeping student loan interest low is one that politicians should be paying attention to.
“I think that both candidates supporting the current student loan interest rate shows that it’s an important issue that affects millions of students and families across the nation, and at Ohio State,” Antani said.
OSU professor in the political sciences department, Nathaniel Swigger, said the support by both candidates does not surprise him because student loan debt is a nonpartisan and easily supported issue.
“I’ll be more interested to see if either candidate comes out with a plan for student loan debt relief or forgiveness,” Swigger said. “That’s a much more critical issue that will pit young people with enormous debt against a lot of special interests.”
Obama will speak at OSU in the Schottenstein Center on May 5 and has not yet announced what he will be talking about. This will mark his second trip to OSU in 37 days.