ONLINE EXCLUSIVE STORY BY SYDNEY PRICE
In the weeks leading up to Halloween, several images circulated the Internet suggesting that if one wanted to wear something really scary, he or she should go as student debt. While the Drake University website reports that almost all of its students receive some sort of financial aid – 98 percent – it’s after graduation that the worry begins. The average American college graduate left school $35,000 in the red this year, according to the Wall Street Journal. And the numbers only continue to rise.
On Saturday night, the Democratic candidates touched on the cost of education during the debate. Here’s what they had to say:
Sen. Sanders advocated a plan to make tuition free for public universities and colleges. He wants the states to cover one-third of the costs and believes they will step up to do so. When challenged by the moderators on the fact that not all students graduate and whether this was a waste of money, Sanders called it “an extraordinary investment for this country.” He also noted that other countries already have similar plans. He condemned the high rates of debt, called for lower interest rates and said that all should be able to receive an education regardless of background.
Nina Turner of the Sanders campaign backed his sentiment and said that the US needs free education in order to stay competitive: “(Sanders) is also saying that, the way we look at K-12 education as a right in this country, in order to continue to excel in the 21st century, we have to expand that to say K through college is a right in this country so that we can keep our competitive edge.”
Sec. Clinton called for free community college. She wants to do away with college debt and suggested Pell grants as one way to do so. Clinton disagreed with Sanders’ plan, quipping that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for Donald Trump’s kids to attend college.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas spoke on behalf of the Clinton campaign.
“I think the important point is she has a plan that will work and will also provide the economic stair steps, if you will, by (getting rid of) debt on one side and providing for others on the other side, I think that’s an excellent road map,” Lee said.
Gov. O’Malley disagreed with Sanders as well and said instead that the goal should be “affordable, debt-free college.” He wants the states to stop making cuts to higher education, lower interest rates and create a block grant program for the states. He cited his past experience in his home state of Maryland and said that his was the only one that went four years without increasing college tuition.
“He’s had an opportunity to actually implement (policies), whether that’s results in education; results in immigration. He’s had the opportunity to do that and he’s shown that he can,” said Nathan Blake, assistant attorney general for Iowa and O’Malley supporter.