The Westfield Voice

The Student News Site of Westfield State University

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Westfield State Community Reacts to U.S. Presidential Election


Some Westfield State University students and faculty favor more funding for education this semester as they follow the U.S. Presidential Election. 

With less than three weeks until the election, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden’s policies and plans are being carefully examined by voters. A major issue in this presidential election is education, specifically higher education.

Political science professor Charles DiStefano has concerns over funding for higher education.

“Definitely funding is critical. Universities used to get a lot of their funding from states and over the years state funding has been evaporating,” he said.

“We need the money to come from elsewhere and right now, all too often, it’s coming from student tuition and fees.”

Emily Frost, a junior at Westfield State, expressed similar concerns. 

“In higher education, I would say again the biggest problem is affordability which goes hand in hand with student loans,” she explains. “Colleges are raising their prices every year.”

Attending college is not cheap by any means. According to the University’s website, the average cost for a Massachusetts resident student at Westfield State University is around $26,000 per year before financial aid.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made things even more difficult.

Education professor Sandra Berkowitz said, “I think we had a lot of work to do to improve public education prior to COVID and now COVID has just made things much more complicated.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden has put his focus on affordability when it comes to his plans for higher education. His campaign website notes that his main plan is to “make public colleges and universities tuition-free for all families with incomes below $125,000.”

However, DiStefano notes that much of Biden’s plans focus on community colleges.

“I don’t see much that he’s doing outside of community colleges. What’s he doing for four-year colleges?” he asks  “I would like to see the Biden administration have more of a plan for four-year universities and colleges as well as just community colleges.”

President Donald Trump has made some decisions about higher education costs as well. According to his campaign site, President Trump has implemented year-round distribution of federal Pell grants versus the previous fall and spring only distribution.

However, according to Forbes Magazine, the President’s plans also include “ending student loan forgiveness for those with public sector jobs, restricting somewhat the amount graduate students can borrow, ending the Stafford subsidized loan program, and reducing the federal Work-Study program.”

Professor DiStefano noted “President Trump has been very concerning. There is concern that he is looking to reduce academic freedom by threatening to cut federal aid when universities are teaching in some way that doesn’t meet his world view.”

Berkowitz has similar thoughts when it comes to educational funding, but notes that plans coming from the Democratic party give her hopes for improvement. 

“I’m very encouraged by the rhetoric that the Democratic platform has put forward about universal preschool. I think that giving programs that have existed for a long time like Head Start a boost is essential.”

She also notes Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, “also talked about loan forgiveness because so many college students are completely crippled by the debt that they have accrued over the time they were in college and it takes them a long time-if ever-to get out from under that debt.”

Berkowitz also expressed concern over the current administration’s handling of education, calling it “disappointing and frankly harmful.”

When asked what a president can do to improve higher education in this country, students and faculty had slightly different opinions.

Frost said, “I think regulation or forgiveness of student loan debt would help a lot. I also think there should be a more clear and easier way to pay for and apply for college, as well as funding for public higher education.”

Both Berkowitz and DiStefano mentioned collaboration between members of the government as the key to success

DiStefano said that the President should “be an advocate for higher education, to promote good policies and to work with Congress to develop policies that will benefit the students, the institutions, the faculty.”

Similarly, Berkowitz noted that listening to those with experience in education is important. 

“I have real confidence in Joe Biden that they will listen to the experts and they will rely on evidence and they will rely on research,” she says. “It won’t just be someone’s opinion about what they think is effective.”

The Presidential Election will take place on Tuesday, November 3rd.

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