Presidential Candidates Tackle Higher Education Cost Issues

For the past 21 months, presidential hopefuls have vied for our attention and approval through nearly every news outlet in the country.

While some voters have been confident in their candidate choice from the start, many are still unsure which party they will lend their support.

With as little as 12 days until Election Day arrives, it is now or never to familiarize ourselves with the candidate’s platforms. To help our readers become more informed voters, we at The Highland Cavalier have unbiasedly broken down a few of the four candidate’s stances on issues that most directly affect college students and recent graduates.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party’s nominee, has been exceptionally vocal throughout her campaign about her proposed changes to the current higher education system.  Clinton unveiled a detailed plan, entitled the “New College Compact,” to reduce tuition costs and refinance student loan debts.

Through this 10 year, $350 billion plan, she aims to significantly reduce tuition costs for all students attending in-state four-year institutions, eliminate tuition costs for in-state four-year college students with families making less than $125,000 per year and to entirely eliminate tuition costs for community college students. The plan will also provide future undergraduates lower interest rates on student loans, current students and graduates the option to refinance their loans at lower interest rates and everyone the ability to enroll in a 10-year income based repayment system that will ensure that no one will ever have to pay more than 10 percent of their annual income. If a student has remaining debt after the 10-year period, the unsettled portion will be eliminated.

Clinton’s plan will also work to simplify the FAFSA application process, restore year-round Pell grants to go solely toward living expenses and to increase daycare options for students with children.

Donald Trump, the Republican party’s nominee, has yet to release an official plan to make changes to the higher education system. However, through comments made by him and his campaign co-chair, Sam Clovis, we are able to discern some of his stronger stances on the issue.

While Trump intends to put pressure on institutions with large endowments to lower tuition prices, he has no intentions to enact a plan that would make four year universities and community colleges tuition free, nor would he work toward making graduates debt free.

On the subject of student loans, ideally, he hopes to remove government’s lending involvement and, instead, transfer that responsibility to private banks. Although private banks would potentially take this role, Trump would like to see colleges have a say in determining the applicant’s loan worthiness. For this, he would advocate that they choose recipients based on the individual’s future earning potential. Following this system, colleges would be advised to be wary of awarding loans to liberal arts majors at non-elite institutions, as their earning potential after graduation is statistically lesser than that of other majors.

Not unlike the repayment plan proposed by Clinton, Trump will also establish a repayment plan that will require borrowers to repay no more than 12 percent of their annual income, with the remainder of the amount to be cancelled after 15 years.

Though Trump nor Clovis have commented on the matter, the Republican party maintains that new systems of learning need to be put in place, such as technical institutions, online universities and work-based learning in the private sector.

Jill Stein, the Green party’s nominee, has presented arguably the most ambitious plan of all to restructure the higher education system. In her proposal, all student debt will be eliminated. She believes this can be achieved by introducing the practice of quantitative easing, which, explained in the simplest of terms, would consist of the Federal Reserve buying student debt, then declining to collect it. Stein insists this practice would expand the current money supply and dramatically increase productivity.

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian party’s nominee, also introduced a somewhat radical notion through his platform – the dismantlement of the Department of Education. Johnson rallies for the end of the governmental unit over federal financial aid programs, as he blames them for the rising cost of pursuing higher education. By closing this department, Johnson would also redistribute control over education to state and local government and attempt to put an end to the Common Core system that is now in place.

The information above was majorly derived from the respective candidates’ webpages; more on these issues, and other platform proposals, can be found there.

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