Republican candidates for president are sticking close to their conservative playbook by promoting a small number of social, religious and other hot-button wedge issues, rather than comprehensively addressing the full range of serious challenges faced by the United States.

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article offered a sober assessment of where Republican and Democratic candidates for president stand on a host of higher education issues. While Democrats offered a wide range of approaches to support higher education, every Republican focused almost exclusively on stem cell research – as if that were the only issue concerning high education in America.

A sampling of Democratic proposals includes Sen. Joe Biden seeking to expand eligibility for federal tax breaks for higher education by raising income limits and annually adjusting them for inflation, while Sen. Hillary Clinton wants to raise the maximum Pell Grant and make the federal Lifelong Learning tax credit refundable.

As for where the candidates stand on college financial aid, the comparison gathered by FinAid, a Web site that provides student financial aid information, is stunning. As of Nov. 12, Republicans Rudolph Giuliani, Michael Huckabee, Rep. Duncan Hunter, Sen. John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Tom Tancredo and Fred Thompson did not offer statements concerning post-secondary education and student financial aid for the FinAid inquiry. Every Democratic candidate responded with specific proposals.

The American higher education system remains the gold standard worldwide. One must wonder if that will continue with another Republican in the Oval Office.

Mark Tardif, Waterville

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