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Everything You Need to Know About Education & the Presidential Election

When we’re constantly being bombarded with charged messages from and about our presidential candidates, it’s easy to let them form our opinions for us. We’re deciding who to vote for based on personality, not policy—and that’s a problem!

As college women, we’re obviously thinking about education constantly. You’ve likely spent some time stressing about those intimidating and inevitable student loans. Or maybe you had to make some tough decisions when choosing a college because of tuition costs. This is what makes education our favorite hot topic of 2016—and personality hardly matters when it comes down to the hard facts of how we’re going to get our degrees. So let’s learn more about it.

Tuition & Expenses

It’s no secret that the cost of college has increased dramatically. Our parents tell stories of a distant time when a year’s worth of tuition, housing and books could be paid for well under $10,000. According to OnTheIssues.org, college costs have risen by 79 percent from 2003-2013, while the inflation rate only rose by 27 percent.

This disproportionate price hike makes it much more difficult for many Americans to afford an education. When Sanders was running, he said this was “insane.” Republican candidates see college as more of a purchase. They say that if you can’t afford one school, you can find more affordable alternatives in state schools, community colleges and online degree programs with just as much merit and value.

Student Loans

With the rising cost of college comes a rising number of student loans. And student loans are arguably the worst type of loan because of their steep interest rates. You’ll be paying a higher percentage of interest on your college education than on your future home!

Americans have racked up a fortune in student loan debt—more than 1 trillion dollars to be exact.  According to Dollars and Sense, an economics publication, student loans won the superlative of “worst delinquency rates in consumer credit,” meaning people aren’t paying them.

So why aren’t students paying their college loans back? There are many reasons, but unexpected circumstances such as poor job prospects and the rising costs in other areas of life has made defaulting on student loans more common than it should be.

So Where Do They Stand?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s campaign website outlines three somewhat lofty promises regarding college education.

Clinton plans to make sure students can graduate without debt, while still paying what they are able to. She also wants to make sure the current out-of-control student loan debt gets back under control.

Hillary plans to keep college costs low by implementing her plan, the New College Compact. It includes students contributing earnings from 10 hours of work each week, families making a contribution, cutting interest rates on loans, providing more grants, and generating a fund to support historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Hillary doesn’t completely explain where the money for the New College Compact will come from, but her website mentions it will come from high-income taxpayers.

She’s got a plan for your student loans too. It’s more similar to Bernie Sanders’ former plan than you might think!  She’ll let you refinance at current rates, cut interest rates, and allow students to pay back loans on an income-based program. And she wants in-state college to be completely free for families making $125,000 per year or less. Critics of Hillary’s plans say they cover too much—it couldn’t all be accomplished.  

Hillary wants to cut rates and impose new taxes to pay for her program. While Hillary’s New College Compact seems realistic, some say that because of its breadth, it’d be impossible to implement the whole thing. A writer for The Atlantic called Hillary’s plan a “smorgasbord approach” in which the “breadth of the plan might ultimately prove its undoing.”

Donald Trump

Of all the things Donald Trump opens his mouth about, college has never been one of them. In fact, higher education is not an issue that he lists on his website, showing it is not one of his top priorities. So if it’s one of yours, perhaps he’s not your candidate.

One of Trump’s only statements on student loan debt was actually in agreement with Sanders! He acknowledged that the government was probably profiting off of student loans, and that they absolutely shouldn’t be.  

He recently made another one of his rare comments on college—he said he would consider cutting federal funding to schools that don’t try to bring down their tuition, and admitted that “one of the biggest problems facing young people and families today is the cost of college education.”

While he hasn’t said all that much about college, he has said a lot about the federal government’s role in regulating education.

“I’m a tremendous believer in education, but education has to be at a local level,” Trump said. “We cannot have the bureaucrats in Washington telling you how to manage your child’s education.”

While Trump stays mostly silent on college costs and student debt, he is outspoken about his beliefs in small government. Trump intends to leave choice and responsibility in the hands of Americans—in your hands, not your government’s.

With this election coming down to the wire, it’s crucial to know the candidates for their politics as well as their personalities! Good luck deciding where to place your vote!