MIDWEST CITY — No matter who the winner is, this year's presidential election stands to have a major impact on a range of areas, including higher education.
Oklahoma political and education leaders discussed what that impact could be and what they hope to see come from the election during a panel discussion Friday moderated by Neil Conan, host of NPR's “Talk of the Nation.”
The panel was part of the Oklahoma Association of Community Colleges' annual conference. Panelists included former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Turpen, former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman.
Turpen, a Democrat, described himself as a single-issue voter, with that issue being student loans. He serves as a member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and said he's concerned that Oklahoma students are graduating from college with tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
When he graduated from the University of Tulsa, Turpen said, he held $40,000 in student loans. It took 10 years to pay them back.
Turpen said he's encouraged by the fact that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have had the same experience — they each took out thousands of dollars in loans to pay for school, and have since paid them back.
That experience likely allows the president to relate better to students who are going through the same thing today, Turpen said.
Calling education access one of the greatest civil rights battles of today, Jolley said he's concerned the federal government plays too large a role in education.