Richmond, VA -This afternoon, U.S. Senate candidate and former Virginia governor Tim Kaine met with Northern Virginia students and parents to discuss the future of higher education. During the roundtable at Villa Bella Ristorante in Burke, Kaine emphasized the importance of higher education to developing the world’s most talented workforce, a key part of his economic vision. Kaine outlined strategies to make higher education more accessible and affordable, including the urgent need for Congress to extend current Stafford student loan rates by June 30 to prevent rates from doubling for more than 177,000 Virginia students.
“We’ve got to get back to number one in the world in talent measures which means we’ve got to tackle this affordability issue in higher education," said Kaine. "We need to maintain vigorous financial aid programs. It would be an absolute tragedy to let Stafford loan interest rates double at month’s end. If Congress can’t find a way to work together to keep that from happening, 177,000 Virginia students who have Stafford loans are going to see their monthly payments go up significantly."
During the 90-minute discussion, Kaine expressed his support for increasing access to two-year college, four-year college, and career/technical education and emphasized the importance of a talented workforce to the nation’s economic competitiveness. As governor, Kaine worked with members of both parties to make investments in education and workforce training, including a 40 percent increase in pre-K enrollment, a record higher education bond package, and millions of dollars in tuition assistance.
Kaine also contrasted his record on higher education with George Allen’s record as a U.S. senator. Kaine has been a strong supporter of extending the 3.4 percent interest rate on Stafford loans and yesterday called upon Congress to act before the June 30 deadline. He was also a vocal supporter of the 2010 expansion of the federal Pell Grant program. While in the Senate, George Allen voted for the largest cut to student financial aid in American history and broke with members of his own party by voting to kick more than 84,000 students off of Pell Grants.
"No state has moved as far as Virginia from economically back of the pack to front of the pack," said Kaine. "Virginia proved if you win the talent race you win the economic race. I believe so passionately that if we fix everything else but we keep slipping in terms of the talent of our young people, then we’re going to have big problems as a nation."
Since the beginning of the year, Kaine has hosted more than 55 economic roundtable discussions across the state.