Policy on student debt crisis could sway millennial voters; Chelsea Clinton talks tuition

Chelsea Clinton

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – For a generation who’s been taught to go to college, but not how to pay for it, now more than ever people are looking at the next president for answers.

Tuition has risen 40 percent in the last 10 years at four-year public colleges and universities, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Total student debt in our economy has more than doubled, exceeding $1.2 trillion.

When it comes to college education and how to pay for it, both presidential candidates have different plans.

Donald Trump has yet to lay out a formal plan on his website to tackle the issue, but he’s stated that he’s in favor of re-privatizing student loan debt taking the federal government out of the equation. Trump said that while the federal government should not profit from student loans, the government shouldn’t offer forgiveness for loans already given.

In Hillary Clinton’s plan, she aims to create a free community college tuition plan and offer families who make $125,000 a year or less free tuition to four-year public universities.

Chelsea Clinton meets with students at Small Steps Learning Academy.
Chelsea Clinton meets with students at Small Steps Learning Academy.

Clinton also wants to enroll graduates in an income-based repayment plan that would forgive remaining loans after 20 years.

The issue is something that both campaigns are largely targeting in order to secure millennial voters.

The majority of that demographic was expected to vote for Bernie Sanders because of his progressive approach on the student debt crisis and push to offer free college tuition.

The Democratic party is now trying to win back those voters. Chelsea Clinton’s visit to Roanoke on Wednesday largely focused on campaigning for her mothers plan for higher education.

“I think affordable higher education is one of the core issues of this campaign,” Clinton told WSLS 10 in an one-on-one interview.

Clinton made a visit at Small Steps Learning Academy in Roanoke before her appearance at Roanoke College. There she spoke to students, parents and teachers about the importance of education.

“This is relevant to people who are in school today, but also the tens of millions of Americans who are dealing with debt, and graduate school and the kids in high school wondering how they are going to pay to pursue their dreams,” Clinton said.

The cost of those college dreams are now more than ever.

Nearly seven out of 10 new graduates of four-year colleges are in debt. Those students leave with an average balance of $30,000.

Student debt has now surpassed credit card debt, car loan debt and home equity loans in America.

Student loan debt is now the second largest source of debt in America.

WSLS 10's Rachel Lucas spoke one-on-one with Chelsea Clinton.
WSLS 10’s Rachel Lucas spoke one-on-one with Chelsea Clinton.

In what should be her most exciting year of college, freshman Abby Ketterman at Roanoke College is already crunching numbers.

“Every time I walk into a classroom I have a number that goes over top of my head. This is what I’m paying to be here, this is how long it’s going to take me to pay it off…it’s kind of nerve-racking,” Ketterman said.

An engineering major at Virginia Western Community College, Alexi Jean Jacqes will graduate with no debt. But that’s not the case when she heads to Virginia Tech to complete her program.

“I have had estimates ran and it’s going to be either between $30-$35,000 for me to attend full-time. That’s very frightening,” Jean Jacqes said.

So frightening for millennials, they all agree, they’ll be voting for the next candidate based on their solution to college debt.

“So either candidate, if they have education reforms or a better way to pay for college, they’ll have my attention,” Ketterman said.

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