Five Things to Know about Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence’s Higher Education Record

2016 Presidential Elections

July 19, 2016

By Mary Nguyen Barry

 (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

1.  As Congressman, Mike Pence rejected nearly $100 million for Minority-Serving Institutions, rejected “year-round” Pell Grants, rejected keeping student loan interest rates at 3.4%, and rejected transferring $40 billion in bank subsidies to Pell Grant aid for students from working class and low-income families.

In the 2006 “Reverse the Raid on Student Aid” substitute bill, Democrats wanted to lower student loan interest rates from 6.8% to 3.4%; provide $25 million to support predominantly black-serving institutions; provide $59 million to improve graduate programs at Hispanic-serving institutions; and establish the “year-round” Pell program to help low-income students pay for summer courses. Pence joined 204 other Republicans in the House in opposing the bill. Likewise, Pence joined all 178 Republicans to vote against the 2010 Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act that eliminated wasteful bank subsidies in the student loan program and transferred $40 billion of those savings into Pell Grant aid for students from working class and low-income families.


2. In his campaign to become Indiana governor, Mike Pence pushed for career technical education (i.e. vocational education) over college preparation.

According to Chalkbeat Indiana, Pence argued that Indiana focused too much on college preparation and let slip programs that prepared students to work directly in jobs that did not require college.  This comes despite the overwhelming evidence that: 1) Two out of every three job openings by 2020 will require higher education beyond high school; 2) Nearly half of the jobs added after the recession were high-wage jobs that all virtually went to college graduates; and 3) A college degree is still the best insurance against poverty and economic insecurity.


3.  In his second year as governor, Mike Pence cut millions from the state higher education budget to pay for corporate tax cuts.

In March 2014, during a budget shortfall, Pence gave massive tax breaks to Indiana corporations – cutting the corporate income tax to the point where it is now the 2nd lowest in the country.  Only five months later, he effectively cut the state higher education budget by 2 percent by holding hostage a portion of each Indiana public college’s state allocation – requiring them to place 2 percent into reserves – and forbade the college from touching that allocated money if tax revenue did not meet projections for the year.


4.  In his third year as governor, Mike Pence signed a bill that required colleges receiving state financial aid to send students an annual “debt letter.”

In April 2015, to combat concerns around “over-borrowing,” Pence signed into law a requirement that Indiana colleges that receive state financial aid annually report to each individual student how much student loan debt they have accrued, estimated monthly repayment rates, and the percentage of the borrowing limit the student has reached.  The proposal was modeled on an Indiana University (IU) system-wide initiative.

On the surface, this seems like a decent policy to a big government liberal – regulating for consumer rights.  But Pence’s law omits a central component in the IU initiative: personalized support and mentoring. As a University of Missouri professor described after unsuccessfully trying to replicate the initiative: “Information in isolation, without other supports, may not be sufficient to really drive behavior.”

But even with the proper supports, there still remains the fundamental weakness behind informational campaigns: it places the burden entirely on students and families to make the appropriate financial decision without any comparable responsibility requirements on the colleges themselves to lower prices or minimize debt.


5.  In his fourth year as governor, Mike Pence enthusiastically supported and signed into law the “Next Generation Hoosier Educators” bill that would provide high-achieving students scholarships to teach in Indiana.

In his State of the State speech to the Indiana legislature this past January, Pence expressed enthusiastic support for Speaker Brian Bosma’s Next Generation Scholarship program. Students who graduate in the top 20 percent of their class or scored in the top 20 percent of the SAT/ACT would receive up to $7,500 per year for up to four years in tuition. In exchange, students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher, be enrolled in at least 15 credit hours per semester, and commit to teaching in Indiana for at least five years. The bill was signed into law in April.

While this law addresses the ongoing issues of lax teacher prep entry standards (see more here), there are many more weaknesses that overpower its benefits. First, it fails to encourage students to go into high-need fields like STEM or teaching English Language Learners or students with disabilities. Second, it fails to encourage students to teach in high-need schools. Third, it fails to target funds to top-tier teacher preparation programs. Fourth, it fails to prioritize funds to students from minority or low-income backgrounds. And finally, it operates as a “gr-oan,” where scholarship recipients who do not fulfill service requirements are required to pay back their grants as loans.

What could very well end up happening is Indiana encourages the production of even more wealthy, white Kindergarten teachers at elite suburban public schools – leaving students from minority and low-income families trapped in lower-performing schools filled with novice teachers that don’t look like them.

These are not the kind of Hoosier values we need imposed on America.