Kerry says students could get tuition for community service

Kari Petrie

In exchange for two years of community service, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry said the government will pay for four years of in-state public college tuition if he is elected.

The Massachusetts senator highlighted the program and his other plans for higher education in an exclusive interview with The Minnesota Daily on Aug. 25 at Anoka-Hennepin Technical College.

Leaning back in his chair and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while drinking a Diet Coke, Kerry said the volunteer program will help students alleviate some of the increased tuition costs.

Approximately 200,000 students could benefit from the program, according to information provided by Kerry’s campaign. Volunteer work would include teaching elementary-school students and building affordable housing.

University pre-med sophomore Alex Focke said the program sounded like a good idea, but wondered how many students would take advantage of it.

“When it comes down to it, it’s like working for two years after high school,” he said. “But a lot of kids want to go to school right after graduating from high school.”

The senator also said he would offer a $4,000 student tax credit and increase the number of Pell grants and Perkins loans, programs the federal government funds.

President George W. Bush froze the maximum Pell grant for the past three years, according to a Democratic Education Workforce Committee report.

Representatives from Bush’s campaign did not return phone calls.

Kerry also acknowledged that it’s harder to get into college now because of higher academic standards at most institutions. If elected, he said he would create a program to help students from the inner city and rural communities prepare for college.

“It’s a program that will help those kids focus,” he said.

Students involved in the program would receive help through tutoring and financial assistance to make sure they graduate and continue on to college, Kerry said.

Craig Swan, University vice provost for undergraduate education, said more applicants to the University means more competition to get in.

“Students understand that a college education gets them more opportunities,” he said.

Applications to the University have increased by 65 percent over the last ten years, Swan said.

Although a supporter of Kerry’s higher education plans, first-year computer science major Matthew Borowske said he did not think the policies would directly help him pay for college.

“But in the long run,” he said. “The money would help other students in the future.”

Kerry’s passion grew as he spoke about why college students should vote in the presidential election.

He said in the past, young people got involved in the civil rights movement, pushed for environmental protection laws and helped stop the Vietnam War.

“(Young people) changed life in America,” Kerry said.

“We need young people to come back now and realize that if you don’t like global warming being ignored, if you don’t like global AIDS being ignored, if you don’t want your student loans to be out of reach, if you don’t want the costs to keep going up, if you want health care Ö I have plans to address every one of those,” he said.

“The world is looking to (students) for leadership,” he said.

Kerry-Edwards National Service Plan

In exchange for two years of volunteer service, 200,000 students would get four years of in-state public college tuition paid.

– 75,000 students helping educate children in troubled schools

– 25,000 students improving homeland security

– 100,000 students working in other areas such as building affordable housing and keeping water and parks clean

Source: Kerry-Edwards Campaign