Student debt a serious issue for candidates

Nov. 10, 2015

Graduation is a day we’re all anxiously awaiting. We’ll finally be able to stand tall, chest puffed out, smile and say, “It wasn’t easy, but we made it.”

Mom and dad, brothers and sisters, grandpa and grandma – they’ll all be there too, shaking hands, congratulating us on a job well done. The future will be ours for the taking. We’ll be free to go out into the world and pursue jobs no longer as students making minimum wage, but as professionals earning salaries with 401ks.

Can you imagine? The possibilities for the future are endless.

Except for the fact that, after graduation, we’ll have six months to find a job and start paying back those unsubsidized loans that’ve been accumulating interest for the past four years. Before we start musing about the success we’re going to achieve, we need to give ourselves a reality check and remember that the majority of us signed our financial souls away at the impressionable age of 18.

It’s a pretty harsh reality check, but one that needs to be undertaken. Seven out of 10 seniors who graduated from public universities in 2014 had student debt, averaging just under $30,000 per student, according to a report published by the Institute for College Access and Success. The average debt at graduation has more than doubled in the last decade, according to the report.

The rising costs of tuition brought on by cuts to public education aren’t helping matters either. Average tuition costs rose 46 percent from 2001 to 2012, and it’s still on the rise, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

As college students struggling to stay afloat in this sea of debilitating debt, we need to support a presidential candidate who makes reforming the current student loan program an important and necessary task. We can’t expect the current economy to improve when college graduates are too crippled by debt to put money back into it.

Yes, student debt is becoming a major  issue for the presidential candidates, but what exactly do they have to say?

On the right, Donald Trump, though he hasn’t brought up a specific plan yet, says young people need to be helped with student debt. In an interview with The Hill newspaper, Trump was critical of the government for making money off of students.

“That’s probably one of the things the government shouldn’t make money off,” Trump said. “I think it’s terrible that one of the only profit centers we have is student loans.”

Ben Carson, although also not in depth, has briefly mentioned the student debt         crisis. In an interview with Tom Constantine, Carson said we should be looking for ways to reduce student debt, but not if it means increasing the national debt.

Over on the left, Sen. Bernie Sanders has a bill already introduced, and it’s about as radical as he is. The self-proclaimed socialist wants to completely scrap tuition at public colleges. Under the bill, the federal government would pay two-thirds of annual tuition costs and require the states to pay the rest. He modeled the bill after Germany’s higher education system – where tuition is, for the most part, free.

Hillary Clinton announced in August that she wants to commit $350 billion over 10 years to making college more affordable to alleviate student debt. Clinton’s plan would use the federal government to provide grants for states that offer free two-year community colleges, and aid graduates by allowing them to refinance their loans at lower interest rates.

Though all of the plans mentioned provoke as many questions as they answer, it’s necessary for us as students to endorse a candidate who’s willing to talk seriously about the debt crisis. This issue will become increasingly important as the election progresses, as candidates are going to find that this isn’t just a problem for kids who took out student loans, but also for their parents who cosigned on those loans as well.

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