Presidential Candidates and College Costs

Plans and Words from Our Next President

Presidential Candidates and College Costs
October 2, 2015

Given the incredible rise in college costs and a collective outstanding student debt in the US approaching $1.3 trillion, 2016 Presidential candidates are beginning to address this issue in hopes of gaining elusive millennial votes. Millennials have been particularly hard hit by student loans on top of a recession and are keenly interested in what politicians propose to ease the burden on either future or current student loan holders. Several candidates have released at least partial proposals.

  • Hillary Clinton (Democrat) – The front-runner has proposed federal incentive grants to states that are targeted at public four-year colleges and universities. Known as the "New College Compact," the program will be intended to make public schools affordable without loans if students can contribute the effective equivalent of ten hours per week in wages and families can make an as-yet to be determined "affordable and realistic" contribution.

Other aspects of the plan include lower interest rates for new student loans and including the ability to refinance existing loans, allowing Pell Grants to be used for living expenses, simplifying and expanding income-based repayment methods, and introducing institutional risk sharing. The $350 billion in costs over 10 years will be covered by "limiting certain tax expenditures for high income taxpayers."

  • Bernie Sanders (Democrat) – Sanders (pictured above) was one of the first candidates to target college costs and has sponsored a bill to award state grants that eliminate tuition and fees at public universities and colleges. Sanders is also in favor of guaranteeing more affordable loans and allowing refinancing of existing loans. The estimated cost is $470 billion over 10 years, paid for by a tax on securities transactions.
  • Marco Rubio (Republican) – Rubio has proposed a "Student Investment Plan" through approved private investment groups. Students would pay a set percentage of income post-graduation for a set period of time. In a similar vein, Rubio also prefers automatic income-based repayments.

  • Rand Paul (Republican) – Paul (pictured above) addresses college costs through the tax code. He advocates making college expenses tax-deductible for whoever is paying the expense, letting students with debt deduct more, if not all, of their incurred student loan interest charges, and allowing unlimited savings in tax-beneficial college savings accounts.
  • Martin O'Malley (Democrat) – O'Malley advocates a debt-free education at all public colleges and universities within five years, while freezing tuition rates. Income-based repayment would become automatic with the right to opt-out. Federal matching grants would be used to increase state funding.
  • John Kasich (Republican) – Kasich is addressing the cost side instead of the payment side. The campaign intends to help colleges and universities control their own costs to avoid the need for tuition hikes, but there are no details yet on how he would accomplish that at the federal level. In Ohio, his approach has been to recommend steps like privatizing non-academic assets and eliminating low-enrollment courses, and threaten to "take the ax" to non-responding schools.

Other candidates have issued single statements on college costs and student loan topics, such as Mike Huckabee (Republican) and Lindsey Graham (Republican) supporting the ability to refinance student loans, but most candidates have not come out with a comprehensive policy. Policies will most likely be refined once the primary season has passed and the party platforms can coalesce around a single candidate.

What of the Republican frontrunners former and current, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump? As of this writing, the majority of Bush's education issues concern pre-collegiate education and his support of Common Core. As for Trump, he has not released any policy about college costs or student debt that we are aware of. Perhaps he advocates bankruptcy.

Harvard photo/© | Bernie Sanders photo © | Rand Paul photo ©

  Conversation   |   31 Comments

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Erin | 10.02.15 @ 17:01
There is no question the cost of education needs to be addressed if we want to continue to be competitive with the rest of the world. Good information.
Daniel | 10.02.15 @ 17:01
I hope at some point the politicians realize this is a major topic that needs attention in out country
Steffanie | 10.02.15 @ 17:02
I think it is about time something was done about the cost of college. It is ridiculous.
Nancy | 10.02.15 @ 17:05
There is so much to consider in voting for the next president. It's a matter of finding the one that says what you want to hear on the issues that we are passionate about. Education costs are certainly one that I'm passionate about.
Rindy | 10.02.15 @ 17:06
This issue has been let go for too long. I hope the politicians take note of it and do something about it.
Angie | 10.02.15 @ 17:08
Because there is so much emphasis on possessing a college degree now in order to obtain a decent salary, there really does need to be some type of relief for the increasing amount of debt that students are now taking on. The amount of debt has reach epic proportions.
Ron | 10.02.15 @ 17:12
Amazing how costs keeping going up with guaranteed student loans to pay it.
Meredith L | 10.02.15 @ 17:13
Promises. Promises. You know, when I was a resident in New York, we voted to allow Lotto because it was supposed to pay for SUNY college for anyone who kept a certain GPA. You know what they do now? Give out little scholarships. It's pathetic. So what theses guys say and what they do are never the same. Keep talking. It's cheap. I want to see action.
Heather | 10.02.15 @ 17:19
The cost of attending colleges and universities is outrageous. Not to mention the interest rates for college loans. They need to find a way to make things more affordable. And don't even get me started on common core. That is one thing that needs a big ax taken to it.
Blake | 10.02.15 @ 17:20
The US is behind in education on all levels, including the fees and costs for college. It's great that the candidates are talking about the issue but the problem is will they go through with their plan once they're elected? Will their proposed fix work? Hopefully it does so more Americans can get higher education and make a livable wage without drowning in debt from said education.
Sara | 10.02.15 @ 17:20
You know I do not care for any of them. And honestly this is an important issue that they are not truly looking at.
Ambar | 10.02.15 @ 17:22
I'll agree with Kasich and O'Malley, it should be focused in debt-free education by lowering tuition costs. Addresing the payment part will be a short time solution.
Kamie | 10.02.15 @ 17:26
I really hope this is truly on their agenda.
Jo Ann | 10.02.15 @ 17:31
Lots of good ideas, But getting it passed through the Congress is another thing. Student loan interest rates should be held down, and personally I feel that anyone making repayment on student loans should be given a gift of you pay half and I pay half if they keep their payments current, and it would enable them to pay down their debt much quicker.
Zanna | 10.02.15 @ 17:42
Right now it's more about the sound bites, I'll be interested to see what the actual candidate's platform is.
Bobbie | 10.02.15 @ 17:44
Colleges have become money making machines with their own political agendas. There is no "fix" for this within the current system structure..
gracie | 10.02.15 @ 17:48
The cost of college is out of control it would be really nice if our future president actually takes on this issue and doesn't just speak about it and do little
Kyle | 10.02.15 @ 17:48
The cost of elections always amazes me... we need more money going to education
Tina | 10.02.15 @ 17:51
I'm glad some of the candidates are talking about this issue. I don't envy them the task of trying to come up with a solution!
Kailie | 10.02.15 @ 17:51
I hope whoever we end up with as president helps our education system
Britt | 10.02.15 @ 17:52
I am 100% behind Rand Paul.
Amanda | 10.02.15 @ 18:11
I feel no matter who is elected college prices will not decrease but continue to raise. Many promises are made for elections but rarely does the issue get resolved.
Kathryn | 10.02.15 @ 18:21
They want us to have an education to have a job yet they charge us thousands of dollars to get one. Meanwhile, European universities are free.
Owen | 10.02.15 @ 18:26
Whoever becomes president needs to lower the interest rates that we are paying now.
Chelsey | 10.02.15 @ 18:32
This is really interesting. I myself put off college because it is so expensive. My degree would not pay for itself with the amount of debt I would take on. How are our young people supposed to compete on a global scale when college is so darn expensive?
Vaughn | 10.02.15 @ 18:37
This was really interesting to see everyones opinions on the matter.
Alec | 10.02.15 @ 18:42
I'm excited to see what actually happens with this. I want to go to college so badly but I can't handle the stress of huge loans. It's pretty neat to see who stands where about this issue too since it's such a huge one. Without an educated workforce, the economy flounders.
George | 10.02.15 @ 18:45
If they are just saying they will help just to get votes, shame on them. But if they do something to help then God bless them.
Kelley | 10.02.15 @ 18:50
I can't wait for Bernie to become president.
Kate | 10.02.15 @ 18:51
In most countries in Europe a college education is free. I am not sure why America can't figure out how to do the same.. Hopefully the new president will be able to address these school funding issues and we can figure it out.
dbothroyd | 02.16.16 @ 18:51
College for many is becoming a lifestyle rather than an education for a working job, We need to produce more and talk and write less!
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 11.28.20 @ 01:58