Liberal Column

Clinton more prepared to aid indebted college students

/ The Daily Orange

The rising cost of attending college has become a severe roadblock that steers many students away from pursuing any form of higher education. For those that do, many are plagued by student loan debt that can take years to pay off. And unfortunately, this major issue has been largely sidelined in the 2016 presidential election.

Just last week, New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, shed light on a shortcoming of the constant chatter of the debate: candidates have not touched on education in a major way.

“If it has been slightly, it’s with Secretary (Hillary) Clinton,” said Elia, according to Syracuse.com. “I would say she hasn’t really pushed an agenda for education.”

Elia is correct: education reform was not discussed at the first presidential debate or the second presidential debate, and has hardly been mentioned in speeches by either candidate.

Whereas a Democratic candidate like Bernie Sanders had the free-education-for-all plan, it was always questioned for its feasibility. Student loan debt seemingly faded from political focus with Sanders’s resignation, but Clinton’s proposal to combat the student loan debt issue has unappreciated merits.

Apart from posting a thorough proposal for college tuition and student loan reform on her website, Clinton has presented a multi-tiered “debt-free college” system. Specifically, families with income up to $125,000 will pay no tuition at in-state four-year public colleges and universities, and students from higher-income families will have access to a revamped student loan infrastructure.

This multi-tiered system would both benefit those who need debt relief the most and even give breaks to students from higher-income families who are still not as likely to borrow. It’s not as all-encompassing as Sanders’ proposal, but it will make college more affordable for students and prevent them from being exposed to massive debt upon graduation.

One noteworthy point made by Clinton is a promise to “crack down on predatory schools.” This is a jab at Donald Trump for his failed Trump University: a for-profit, unaccredited school that currently faces a class action lawsuit of more than 5,000 plaintiffs. Because for-profit universities are a growing problem in the United States, it is unnerving to have a major presidential candidate at the head of one — especially one under fire. And even more troublesome is how Trump has hardly any policies pertaining to higher education.

Trump has disclosed little about college debt, but his desire to privatize the student loan system through using private banks instead of the federal government. This idea is dangerous because it subjects students to the predatory loan practices that Clinton is fighting against. Agencies prey on desperate students looking for lower interest rates by offering them affixed with high service fees or alternative payment plans.

Ultimately, these scams will overwhelm a student with even more financial woes and will prevent college graduates from developing positive credit scores, restricting job and housing prospects. When more than 40 million U.S. college graduates are afflicted debt — averaging more than $37,000 per student, according to a 2014 study by the credit bureau Experian — Trump’s stance on how to deal with debt does little to help or reassure those who actually have to confront it.

Again, as Elia noted, education is not by any means at the forefront of this election. Yet it is still reassuring to know that Clinton has a thorough optimistic proposal to combat the college debt problem. Conversely, it is disconcerting to know that her opponent has no such plan and is simultaneously embroiled in a lawsuit concerning his own fraudulent academic dealings.

On the subject of higher education reform, only one candidate has the best interests of students at heart, and she is prepared to take legitimate steps to address the issue.

Ryan Dunn is a freshman history major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at rarozenb@syr.edu.

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