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Candidates vow to tackle college affordability

The five democratic presidential candidates debated a variety of issues plaguing our country Tuesday. While the contenders disagreed on issues like gun control and national security, they unanimously agreed the cost of college is far too high.

Two contenders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, stressed the need for making college more affordable. Sanders explained a college degree in today’s society is essentially the equivalent of a high school degree 50 years ago. 

He firmly declared every public college and university in the U.S. should be tuition-free so all those who wish to can pursue higher education. When asked how he plans to accomplish the goal, he revealed his rather naive idea to implement taxes on Wall Street speculation, which he estimates will completely fund the project and have excess funds to lower interest rates on debt. His proposal is estimated to cost $70 billion, annually.

Sanders labels himself as a “democratic socialist” and worked tirelessly throughout the debate to reaffirm the label. His views often veered far to the left and, while optimistic, were entirely unrealistic. 

He said he wished for the U.S. to become like “Denmark, Sweden and Norway.” However, the moderator, Anderson Cooper, quickly reminded Sanders that Denmark only has a population of 5.6 million people. The U.S. has a population of approximately 319 million people and using the same mindset to run a country nearly 57 times larger than the example is nonsensical. 

Clinton also plans on making public colleges and universities tuition-free. The end goal, however, is the only aspect of the reformation they share. Clinton does not plan to go to Wall Street for the funds or offer education as a no-strings-attached gift for every American.  

Instead, Clinton proposes a plan that would cost around $35 billion dollars per year over 10 years. This plan, unlike Sanders’, would require those students who receive financial aid to work at least 10 hours a week. 

According to the Huffington Post, nearly four in five college students work part-time while in school, averaging 19 hours a week. However, of those students, only “18 percent pay their way through school.”

Clinton’s plan would not be asking more from students than they are already giving, and would ensure that those willing to work will be able to pursue an education without acquiring excruciating debt.

She also plans on allowing “the 40 million Americans who currently have student debt … to refinance their debt to a low interest rate. That will save thousands of dollars for people who are now struggling under this cumbersome, burdensome college debt.”

She also aims to make colleges lower their costs, claiming, “They are outrageously high in what they’re charging.”

It is refreshing to finally have politicians determined to help our generation. A college education is essential for success in today’s society, and 62 percent of Americans “believe most people are not able to afford the cost of a public education,” according to the Huffington Post. 

This sentiment appears to cross political lines, yet the issue is one that was not addressed by the candidates at the Republican debate. Realistically, even if a democratic candidate is elected president, the odds of college reformation are slim without the support of the House. 

However, Clinton is confident she can make the necessary change happen, stating, “I know how to find common ground, and I know how to stand my ground.”

Candidates know the power the millennial generation holds. We make up 36 percent of eligible voters and will play a crucial role in the next election. While both candidates aim to make college more affordable, only one realistically has the skills to get the job done. 

Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.