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In Scant References to Higher Ed, Ryan Digs at Obama


The Chronicle of Higher Education - August 30, 2012

Rep. Paul Ryan accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for vice president of the United States on Wednesday night with a speech that contained only a few brief references to higher education.

Addressing the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Mr. Ryan hammered “Obamacare” and President Obama’s handling of the economy. Early in his speech, however, he mentioned college students among those affected by the nation’s slow economic recovery. Of the “millions of young Americans” who have graduated from college during the past four years, Mr. Ryan said, “half of them can’t find the work they studied for, or any work at all.”

This was an apparent reference to a Rutgers University study, released in May, that found that only 51 percent of participants who graduated from 2006 to 2011 had full-time employment. The study also found that 11 percent of participants were unemployed, 12 percent were employed part time, and 23 percent were attending graduate or professional school.

The convention audience delivered one of the biggest ovations of the night to a line later in Mr. Ryan’s speech aimed directly at this struggling demographic. “College graduates,” Mr. Ryan said, “should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”

Another reference to higher education came when Mr. Ryan mentioned his mother and “hero,” Elizabeth A. (Betty) Ryan. Among his reminiscences was that she returned to college at the University of Wisconsin at age 50 after the death of Mr. Ryan’s father. She rode a bus “40 miles each morning to Madison,” he said. “She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business.”

Mr. Ryan was not the only politician to make a family member’s college career part of his convention speech. New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie sounded the same theme in his remarks on Tuesday night.