The 2016 Presidential Candidates and Their Views on College

In the 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama promised he would implement services that would help make community college free for all students just graduating high school. His proposal would make public education last an extra two years, which he hoped would help close the achievement gap the U.S. has in comparison to other world powers. Since then, politicians have been abuzz with different ideas on higher level education. Another big topic was, and still is, the issue of student debt. The current student loan debt average for a student graduating after four years of college is $29,000– which many find outrageous.

With the amount of student loan debt rising each year, many, like President Obama, have taken a firm stance on the issue. However, with Obama’s term coming to an end, candidates for the 2016 election have been pressured into taking stances on the issue, with some agreeing with the President and others taking very different routes.  

Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders has been extremely vocal on his ideas surrounding student debt, and he has promised various times that if he is elected he will make college completely free for college freshmen and sophomores, much like what President Obama has promised. However, with a little more than 18 million students going into college every year, many are concerned with what spending Sanders will take from in order to afford this idea. It is possible that if this were to become reality, other government spending would decrease dramatically, which could hurt many possible services like healthcare and military spending. “I really like Sanders’ view on the issue because I can tell he values it highly.” Charlie Kerns, a junior said, “I think he’s going to make it more accessible to those who couldn’t afford it before.”

Both Clinton and Sanders want to make changes to higher education
Both Clinton and Sanders want to make changes to higher education

Potentially the most well-known of the election’s candidates, Hillary Clinton has also taken a stance on cutting student loan debts. She has promised to make college prices more flexible based on a student’s financial situation. Her policies are popular among both Democrats and Republicans, which many feel will help her get her proposals passed in congress. She also has pushed for more financial aid being available to all students from both public and private sources. With all this financial aid she promises, the government would have to find money somehow, and she has pushed for creating taxes for the wealthy to help pay for college students’ education. While this has been controversial, Julianna Manseau, a junior, said that “Wealthier people need to help out those in struggling financial situations. It’s just how this country functions.” She also expressed that taxes may not be the best way to fix student loan debt, but that she thinks, “we all need to look out for each other in any way possible.”

On the Republican side, student debt has also continued to determine candidate’s policies. Jeb Bush has spoken out not on cutting debt, but instead putting pressure on more schools to become “for-profit,” meaning that they would find payment not from students’ pockets but from the government and other sources. He also spoke out on colleges being more “transparent” on what their students’ lives are after graduating, citing that making statistics on student employment and debt more readily available will help students from choosing a school whose price tag they cannot afford in the long run. Many find this to be too vague of a position on the issue, for almost all schools’ numbers on the issues he mentioned are already very easy to find online. Many believe that he truly has not taken a stance at all, which has hurt his support in the election.

Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio is a unique candidate in this category, for his outlook on college funding was based not in public education, but in private education. He has consistently urged wealthy private industries to donate to these schools to help lower the cost for students. He is, like Clinton, in support of making college more “need based,” but has been less radical in his ideas then her. Many feel that he does not truly have any possible proposals to lower student debt and has instead only agreed that it is a problem for American young adults and their families.

Despite so many candidates taking a strong stance on the issue, Ben Carson has said that he would not implement any changes to the student loan system. He has been quoted with saying that the only way one can get out of debt is “work,” which many find to be unsympathetic to the true seriousness of the issue and is unfair to students who come from unwealthy backgrounds.

Donald Trump, while arguably the most vocal of all the candidates, has said little to nothing on the subject and has instead focused his campaign on plentiful different topics like foreign policy and issues of terrorism and race. He has said that he finds it awful that some people are making money off of student loan debt, but has not issued any plans to stop it.

With SLVHS’ own seniors being able to vote in the next election, the issue of student debt from loans and high price tags will continue to be a popular issue on campus and around the country.

By: Serena Mendoza

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