Debate puts OU in primetime, spurs student loan talks

Approximately 3.33 million viewers tuned in to the CNBC Republican presidential debate last Wednesday, which gave much exposure to the campus of Oakland University.

“The event went very well and there were no glitches,” OU President Gary Russi said. “The media exposure for Oakland was unbelievable.”

CNBC was the No. 1 cable channel during prime time the night of the ninth, despite coming in sixth place in Nielsen ratings compared to other Republican primary debates so far this year.

A CNBC broadcast of a 2007 Republican debate drew in about one-third the amount of viewers.

“There were thousands of hits nationally (Tuesday) and much more (on Wednesday),” Russi said. “CNBC started broadcasting about Oakland on Sunday (Nov. 6) and it just continued.”

OU also received a shout out from Saturday Night Live as the cast reenacted Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s debate gaffe.

Russi’s executive assistant, Karen Kukuk, shouldered a lot of responsibilities when it came to the planning of the debate.

“The event was an overwhelming success on all counts,” Kukuk said. “The involvement of hundreds of our students in debate related activities — from volunteering opportunities to classroom activities — brought added value to their educational experience at Oakland.”

She applauded campus community members for coming together to manage a successful event.

“Many of our faculty were engaged in debate activities as well and numerous staff members worked very hard to ensure the success of the event,” Kukuk said. “Moreover, the public profile and overall visibility of Oakland University received a significant boost from the extensive media coverage of the event, even in the days leading up to the event.”

One topic that piqued the interest of students was a question presented by CNBC’s Sharon Epperson about the cost of higher education and record amounts of student loan debt.

Rep. Ron Paul deemed the “policy of student loans” a “failure” while former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggested that students finish school in quicker, more efficient manner.

“I know a lot of people in Student Congress and a lot of students we’ve talked to have federal loans, so for a candidate to come into our university and make those statements … I’m not okay with that,” said OU Student Congress Vice President Elisa Malile.

Student Congress President Ben Eveslage also pointed out that the situations of students Paul and Gingrich spoke of were not true for many at OU.

“I think the worst option right now, especially at Oakland University, is to have a state where only the top-notch students who have rich families will have been able to go to the university,” Eveslage said. “That makes it risky for our university and risky for our students.”

Rep. Paul said during the debate that he thought free market economics should rule when it comes to higher education and that the government should not be involved with the delivery of services.

That means abolishing the beleaguered federal student loan program.

Vice President for Governmental Relations Rochelle Black said she couldn’t speak directly on issues specific to financial aid, but said the “debt load and everything involved with being a student now is not a