With the presidential circus winding down into its final month, the debates have started and the results have lived up to the billing. Debate moderator Lester Holt hammered both candidates on trade deals, taxes, war, and their own credibility.
One topic barely discussed so far is how each presidential candidate will affect higher education and problems faced by college-aged citizens. While Bernie Sanders was the candidate most invested in public universities, his campaign efforts came up short. Still, he drew enough support to alter Hillary Clinton’s platform on education. Despite not earning the Democratic nomination, the Sanders campaign caused a huge uptick in attention to college tuition.
“Let’s be sure we have affordable child care and debt-free college. How are we going to do it? We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes,” Clinton said in the first Presidential Debate.
Clinton supports debt-free public universities. Her initial plan was smaller, but under pressure from far left wing Democrats, she expanded it to attract Sanders supporters. These would not be tuition free schools like Sanders envisioned, but the tuition would be tailored to families who make less than $85,000 initially, to be raised to $125,000 by 2021. Families would have to contribute a reasonable percentage of their income to pay for tuition.
The debt-free aspect would lower the costs of required expenses like books and classes with a 10-year, $350 billion federal grant program Clinton hopes to pass if elected to office. To clarify, students would still pay to attend public universities, but the plan is to enable them to leave school with no debt. She would push for completely free community college, identical to President Obamas plan. NPR reported Clinton has also backed a three-month moratorium on student debt that could be extended to three-years for entrepreneurs.
She’s drawn criticism from some who claim that her robust education plan is an olive branch to Sanders supporters but lacking in certain aspects. With a massive federal funding program for debt-free public universities there would be an enormous money shift in the education world, leaving smaller private schools with less enrollment and less capital. Clinton has been endorsed by American Federation of Teachers and the head of the National Education Association.
While Donald Trump has no policy mentions of tuition or education on his official campaign website, he touched on the subject in his 2015 book, “Crippled America.”
“These student loans are probably one of the only things that the government shouldn’t make money from and yet it does,” he wrote. Based on this, he appears to disagree with the government making a profit off of student debt, but he hasn’t publicly discussed what he would do to fix it if elected. The most definitive statement Trump has made about education is when he told Fox News (on Oct. 18 of last year) that he would consider cutting the Education Department completely. What exactly would take its place is unknown.
Sam Clovis, a Trump policy advisor, told Inside Higher Ed that Trump would remove the government from the loan system and have private banks lend money to college students instead, but Trump has yet to validate this stance personally. In addition to this proposal, the Republican platform includes a section on increasing the number of accrediting institutions to enable more options for citizens and reducing the federal governments control of what constitutes a university. With a Republican majority in Congress and Trump in office, the Republican platform would be much easier to pass which is a point often overlooked by younger voters new to politics. Local elections of representatives in the House and state elections for Senators are equally as important to our government’s agenda as Presidential elections.
Also directly affecting college students and all too common in Happy Valley, campus sexual assault is likely to be discussed during the upcoming presidential debates as high profile cases like Brock Turner’s have rattled the nation.
Clinton’s plan for combatting sexual assault leans heavily on awareness, similar to President Obama and Vice President Biden’s “It’s On Us” campaign. A huge movement has risen in the past few years with mandatory awareness classes for college students. Clinton states she wants to take this a step further and implement awareness training into secondary schools as well. Starting awareness training earlier may be effective to change the national climate but the issue of sexual violence is vast and the solution will take time, regardless of who is elected.
Trump’s official campaign website has no mention of sexual assault, and policy-wise he’s pretty silent about it. Allegations and questionable tweets about it on his part have surfaced, but none of these things touch on what would happen regarding sexual assault on college campuses if he were elected. The Republican Party however, does mention in its platform that, “Whenever reported, it [sexual assault]must be promptly investigated by civil authorities and prosecuted in a courtroom, not a faculty lounge. Questions of guilt or innocence must be decided by a judge and jury, with guilt determined beyond a reasonable doubt. Those convicted of sexual assault should be punished to the full extent of the law.”
At many schools around the nation, campus policy stands in the way of women feeling comfortable reporting incidents. Brigham Young University and more than 200 other schools are currently under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Code, Time magazine reported. The schools under investigation are being questioned on how they handle reports of sexual violence, and according to some, Penn State hasn’t handled it well either.
Through the name calling and the untruths, this election is something every college student should care about and understand. Educate yourself and register to vote — time is running out.