Democratic candidates propose solutions to student debt crisis

By Rachel Popa

Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both proposed plans to make college more affordable in the future

Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both proposed plans to make college more affordable in the future  Photo courtesy Kurt Strazdins

According to a 2014 study by Gulf Business, the United States ranks third in the world in terms of most expensive countries to attend college behind Australia and Singapore. Nationally, college students owe a collective $1.2 trillion in debt, according to USA Today.  Presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, proposed plans to make college more affordable for future generations.

Clinton’s plan, called the “New College Compact”, aims to hold states accountable for investing long-term into higher education by offering a reward for making sure students do not have to borrow to attend four-year college and universities, according to Clinton’s campaign website.   College Compact expects students and their families to contribute a realistic and reasonable sum based on income as well as wages earned by the student per 10 hours of work.   the plan supports private colleges that struggle to keep their tuition down, veteran college students and the use of their GI bill, as well as encouraging universities to focus on student outcomes rather than their bottom lines.

Clinton plans to fund the New College Compact through raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans by closing tax loopholes in a 10 year, $350 billion program. One-third of the taxes collected for the New College Compact will be used to help indebted students struggling to pay back their loans. The rest will go toward grants for universities  and investments in higher education.

Opponent Bernie Sanders stated that Clinton’s plan doesn’t do enough. His plan, titled the “College for All Act”, goes to great lengths making college affordable by focusing on making college a “public good”. According to his campaign website, asking   struggling families to make financial contributions for college tuition places a burden on   struggling middle class families. His plan, like Clinton’s, would allocate funds to states to provide higher education. However, Sanders’ plan is truly debt-free while Clinton’s is not, and looks toward Wall Street for funding. Sanders plans to put a “Robin Hood” tax on Wall Street which   places a “speculation fee” on stock trades, hedge funds, and investment houses which he claims can raise billions of dollars every year. Included in Sanders’ College for All Act is the stipulation that none of the funds received by colleges from the state can be used for administrative salaries, merit based scholarships, or the construction of non-academic campus buildings such as sports complexes. Compared to Clinton’s plan, Sanders’ has a bigger price tag, at about $750 billion over the course of 10 years.

Republican candidates wasted no time opposing these plans. New Jersey governor and presidential candidate Chris Christie spoke out against the plans, saying, “If college graduates are going to reap the greater economic rewards and opportunities of earning a degree, then it seems fair for them to support the cost of the education they’re receiving.”

A problem with both plans is the uncertainty that colleges will commit to keeping costs down for their students. If colleges continue to hike up tuition, then taxpayers will be forced to pay more money to support these plans. Both colleges and the government are going to have to work together to make higher education a reality for the next generation of students.

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