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Three Ways Rep. Cantor’s New Plan Is More Of The Same On Immigration, Higher Ed

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va. gives a major policy address entitled: "Making Life Work." Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) gave a speech that aimed to “rebrand” the GOP as a party that is ready to help the “most vulnerable” and working to make life easier for middle-class Americans.

Though Cantor mentioned a number of ideas that Millennials and the rest of the country support, a closer look at the policies he outlined in his speech conveyed a vision for the country on higher education and immigration that goes against Millennial attitudes on these key issues.

1. On skyrocketing college costs, Cantor said: His first solution to grappling with college costs, which have nearly tripled in the last 30 years and deferred timely graduations for students enrolled in four-year programs, would be to “reform our student aid process to give students a financial incentive to finish their studies sooner.”

The Reality: Finding ways to help students earn their degrees and enter the workforce sooner is a worthy goal, but too broad a measure could shortchange many students. About half of today’s college students are enrolled part-time due to financial or other challenges. As a result, they take longer to earn their degrees. Passing a one-size-fits-all reform to financial aid would only hurt these students.

What’s more, the House Republican budget would eliminate Pell Grants for more than a million students and cut remaining awards by more than $1,500 for millions more.

2. On “entrepreneurship in higher education,” Cantor touted: For-profit schools as positive option for students.

The Reality: For-profit colleges have repeatedly come under scrutiny for their predatory recruiting and lending practices. And with the economy still recovering, students and their families should focus on schools that offer better job prospects than those faced by for-profit students.

3. On Immigration, Cantor said: "It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home."

The Reality: In 2010, he and 160 other Republicans voted against the DREAM Act. So the question is whether he and his colleagues have turned a corner or if this is just softer rhetoric.

In last week’s press conference announcing the new blueprint for immigration reform, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) admitted that acting on immigration is essential to the Republican party’s future. He said: “If we continue to polarize the Latino/Hispanic vote, the demographics indicate that our chances for being in the majority are minimal."

Last week, Millennials heard from President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators on their plans to fix the immigration system. Both addressed the need to find a solution that gives DREAMers a path to citizenship.

With a new Congress underway and the Republicans still in the majority, Cantor and his colleagues have an opportunity to pass meaningful legislation that will help create opportunity for Millennials and the rest of the country. Young people will be watching closely to see if conservatives in Congress will act on Cantor's words.

Abraham White is a communications associate at Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @abwhite7.

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