By Nina Earnest
The federal government is to blame for high tuition costs, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, said Monday in the IMU.
As the value of the American dollar goes down because of government spending and debt, the price of education increases, the 2008 GOP presidential-nomination hopeful said.
"It's like a treadmill -- you just go on and on," Paul said about the federal government. "And people say, "Well, we just need more money.' "
Paul spoke to a crowd of roughly 200 students and community members, expressing his libertarian belief that most issues -- including decisions on abortions and the definition of marriage -- should be left up to the states with no federal intervention.
The federal government should have limited intervention in education issues, he said, because the Constitution gives it no authority to be involved in higher -- or lower -- education.
Appearing as part of the Presidential Lecture series organized by the Family Leader, Paul said he believes the responsibility of education should lie in the hands of families.
"I don't believe the federal government should be involved in education at all," he told the crowd. "That means I don't believe in the Department of Education."
Ani DeGroot, the president of the UI chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, said Paul's approach to education could help the United States regain its competitive edge in the field.
She said she supports an economy that isn't regulated by the federal government.
"In the free market, education quality will increase as opposed to central planning," she said. "Central planning doesn't take into account what the micro-problems are for education."
Natalie Ginty of the UI College Republicans said Paul is one of the Republican candidates who does what he promises.
"He practiced what he preached for over 35 years in Congress," she said. "He's going to tell you his beliefs."
UI Democrats President Margaret Murphy said the idea of eliminating the Department of Education is "ludicrous."
"Obviously, the government does have a place and responsibility toward education education is the most important thing in America," she said. "It's what drives people; it's what makes people succeed."
Murphy said she didn't see Paul emerging as the Republican nominee if he chooses to run.
David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, said Paul's chances of winning the Republican nomination depend on the other challengers in the field. He has a libertarian base, Redlawsk said, but that political ideology is not as strong in Iowa.
"I think he could make some inroads in Iowa," Redlawsk said. "I'd be really surprised if he could win in Iowa considering the current crop of candidates."
Elsa Meza traveled from Chicago with her husband and three children -- Rio, 9, Tala, 6, and Ani, 4 -- to see the potential candidate. In Chicago, she said, it is nearly impossible to attend a Paul function.
The girls took turns holding a small printed sign -- reading "Freedom is Popular" -- signed by Paul in red ink.
And Meza said she sees the younger generation taking Paul's message to heart.
"People are waking up and saying, "This is not what I want,' " Meza said.
But one UI student, freshman Peter Johnson, said he disagreed with Paul's opinions despite supporting the representative's call for a better informed electorate.
"The total removal of government control would [not] be for the benefit of the country," the 19-year-old said.