Panelists discuss presidential candidates at Academic S.T.A.R.S. forum

Christina Suttles

Members of the Academic Students Achieving and Reaching for Success (S.T.A.R.S.) hosted an informative panel about the presidential election Wednesday as part of their Hot Topics Diversity Series. The discussion focused on the topic of “Election 2012: What Students Need to Know.”

The forum included panelists Evan Gildenblatt, executive director of the Undergraduate Student Government, and Bryan Staul, president of the Kent State College Democrats.

The College Republicans were invited to speak at the forum but couldn’t be reached in time.

Members of Academic S.T.A.R.S. kicked off the event by discussing what each presidential candidate has done, or plans to do, for education, employment and health care.

A PowerPoint outlined what Obama has done to benefit education, including hiring effective teachers, setting aside $5 billion for K-12 education and reforming student loans. However, it also cited the elimination of the Federal Family Education Loan as a negative aspect of the president’s time in office, making it harder for students to obtain private loans.

Romney’s plan, according to the PowerPoint, is to promote school-of-choice options for K-12 students and to reinstate No Child Left Behind, which President Obama granted waivers from in 2012. The act relies heavily on annual standardized testing and allows students the choice to leave a school that fails to meet these state requirements.

“I’m concerned that if Romney takes office and cuts financial aid that I won’t be able to attend school,” an attendee said during the discussion.

Staul said he, as well as many other Kent State students, wouldn’t be able to afford college without federal loans and grants. He said President Obama’s visit to Kent State a few weeks ago was an example of his commitment to college students.

Obama’s Affordable Care Act insured nearly 50 million Americans who, due to financial restrictions or pre-existing conditions, couldn’t have otherwise afforded it, but it also raised insurance costs significantly for high-income individuals, according to the presentation. Romney would sign an executive order to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

Gildenblatt cited an experience he had while living in Israel during his freshman year to illustrate why he believes universal health care is imperative to a highly functional, developed nation. During his trip, he traveled to Uganda and fell ill after drinking contaminated water, he said.

“I was taken care of in the hospital for 10 days,” he said. “When I came out of the hospital, my government-sponsored insurance had taken care of that hospital visit … I would have been paying for that until I was 40 years old if I were here.”

The presentation also stated that President Obama has added 459,000 jobs since January 2012 and has passed Wall Street reform, while Romney’s plan includes energy independence, helping Americans obtain the skills to succeed, cutting the deficit and helping small businesses.

“I thought it was great to hear information on both sides because there was some new information that I learned about both Romney and Obama,” said Brennan Cooper, freshman psychology major.

Contact Christina Suttles at [email protected].