Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Braley Talks Higher Ed, Syria On Campus

It was billed as a higher education event, and about half the questions directed to Bruce Braley on campus this afternoon were student-specific.

But students care about the rest of the picture, too, and Braley's most interesting comments were about Syria.

"What happened was a crime against humanity," said Braley. "The international community should be outraged and should hold President Assad accountable for war crimes."

But Braley wants more details before going ahead with American military action. "My concern is I haven't been presented with a plan that shows me how US military intervention will achieve the objective."

Braley has said he will attend briefings next week when Congress goes back into session.

Johnson County, with our large student population and big Democratic margins, is critical to Braley's hopes for a statewide victory over A Republican To Be Named Later in 14 months. The kind of students who come to an event like this, this far out, are the ones who are likely to be the super-volunteers or field staffers next year. The crowd of about 30 was almost all student and almost all Democratic, with just a couple of us non-student ringers in the back.

The UI stop was Braley's second education event of the day, following a stop at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

"Education is the foundation of everything we want to do to make this a better state and attract people to stay here," said Braley.  "Iowa is historically an education state, but I fear that in recent years we have not been placing that same emphasis on access & affordability."

Braley said that Iowa is #3 in the country in student loan debt and #4 in the number of students with debt. (He made no mention of our #1 party school status.) He has all his bases covered with the regents schools: ISU undergrad, Iowa Law, and purple signs and a Black Hawk County address for UNI.

Asked about President Obama's musings that law school should be two years rather than three, Braley said "I wish law school had been six months long" but added that, after deaths in the family during his law school years, "if it hadn't been for some part time jobs I had don't know if I could have finished law school."

Braley said one area of possible education reform is the growing trend of online universities. "We see dramatic (student loan) default rates, without a lot of positive outcomes going out." He noted one major online school had over 1000 recruiters but zero placement officers. "We need more accountability for default and placement rates."

Discussion at the Q & A dominated event (Braley only spoke for about 5 minutes before opening up for about 40 minutes of questions) also touched on health care and the national deficit.

"The impact of sequestration is having a positive across board effect" on deficit reduction, said Braley, "but is having a detrimental effect on some very positive programs" such as Head Start.

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