Kerry stumps for college-age voters

Josh Verges

While touring four of the nation’s colleges, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., hopes to convince students they will be better off next year with a Democrat in the White House.

On the heels of a negative Minnesota jobs report, Kerry said his $25 billion State Tax Relief and Education Fund will help the 220,000 young people he said have been “priced out” of four-year colleges under President George W. Bush this year.

Kerry will visit the City College of New York today, the third of four scheduled stops on his “Change Starts with U” tour to organize his college supporters and register students to vote.

“We want students to realize their power to have an impact on this election,” he told college reporters in a Tuesday conference call.

Kerry’s plan to make college more accessible includes a $4,000 tax credit for all students and four free years of college tuition for those who spend two years doing nonmilitary community service.

He plans to roll back income tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 per year to pay for the student aid.

Minnesota Bush campaign officials did not return phone calls, nor did the state Republican caucus.

Bush plans to put $503 million toward job training, half of which would be community college grants.

The Bush campaign has said Kerry wants to increase taxes by $1.7 trillion. But Kerry said he will lower taxes for 98 percent of Americans.

“George Bush’s tax cut for the wealthy is a tuition increase for students,” Kerry said.

Kerry said budget concerns could push him to scale back the service and state aid plans, but the tax credit is safe.

Minnesota unemployment figures released Tuesday showed a net loss of 500 jobs. National figures released earlier this month surprised analysts with an increase of 308,000 jobs, the biggest one-month gain in four years.

“We’re not seeing the kind of job growth we would normally see coming out of a recession,” said Steve Hine, research director at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Hine attributed the stagnation to a shrinking state government and to the Metro Transit strike, which he said has taken approximately 2,000 people off payrolls.

College tuition is one of seven factors in Kerry’s “middle-class misery index,” released Monday. In it, the Kerry campaign said Bush’s presidency has been the hardest in history on middle-class Americans.

“It’s a choice between common sense and a failed economic policy,” Kerry said.

But a response posted on Bush’s official re-election Web site said the “real” misery index – the combination of unemployment and inflation rates – stands at 7.29, the lowest ever for a president facing re-election since the index was first coined in 1976.