Millennial Viewpoint: Where Does Your Candidate Stand on College Issues?

Across the United States, many college students believe higher education is the way they will achieve the “American dream.” A reality for most is the mounting debt they will acquire whether or not they receive their degree. Issues regarding college students such as high tuition costs and staggering loan debt are hot topics among all presidential candidates. This is where they stand.

In 2013, controversy swirled around speculation that student loan interest rates would double. Numerous back-and-forth proposals were widely debated among legislators. Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz voted for the bipartisan bill that became law in July 2013, which capped student loan interest rates and fixed them for the life of the loan. Critics claimed the law did not do enough to address the overall problem, but it did prevent rates from doubling.

Although Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has not put forth firm proposals regarding debt, he is critical of the government profiting from federal student loans. “That’s probably one of the only things the government shouldn’t make money off,” Trump said in an interview with The Hill. “I think it’s terrible that one of the only profit centers we have is student loans.”

Republican presidential candidate Governor John Kasich favors a plan to expand dual credit programs to help more students earn college credit while still in high school, at a reduced cost. Also, Kasich’s state of Ohio has already implemented a plan to keep tuition and fees under control.

According to Kasich’s Website, the candidate believes Ohio is a national leader in holding the line on tuition increases, where college tuition and fees will be frozen for the next two years while a new state task force helps schools identify ways to control their costs. Ohio’s new college plan pays colleges and universities based on how well they help students complete courses and graduate on time.

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders talked about his proposal to provide free college tuition during the third Democratic primary debate Dec. 19, 2015. “My proposal is to put a speculation tax on Wall Street, raise very substantial sums of money, not only make public colleges and universities tuition-free but also substantially lower interest rates on student debts,” Sanders said.

As a senator, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s record regarding college debt is mostly pro-borrower. Clinton supported and voted for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act in 2007 which expanded Pell grants, reduced interest rates, and introduced the federal government’s Income-Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness plans.

More recently, Clinton discussed refinancing all college debt which would help 40 million new graduates. Although she is openly critical of Sanders’ tuition-free proposal, she introduced the New College Compact, a $350 billion plan to make community college free.

Overall, Clinton’s solution for college students is to have debt-free education, not outright free education. Her plan will make certain that no student has to borrow money to pay for tuition, books, or fees to attend a four-year public college. Those with existing student loan debt would be able to refinance at current rates. Clinton said that she would hold colleges and universities accountable for controlling costs and making tuition affordable for all.

Student debt is an obligation that will follow many students for the rest of their lives. The question remains, with millennials facing mounting student loan debt, which candidates’ ideas can effect positive changes? The right solution can potentially impact millennials as they strive for the “American Dream” after graduation, and whether the next generation will continue to view a college education as a feasible pathway to the same end.