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November 07, 2016

(Associated Press)

Making higher education more affordable has been front and center during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. How did the issue - once scarcely talked about by candidates - make its way into national politics? 

On Campus' Kirk Carapezza spoke with Morning Edition's Bob Seay.

Interview Highlights

On how college affordability surfaced in the presidential election:

Since the recession, students and their families have become increasingly price-conscious and that’s exactly what drove students to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during the primaries. He proposed making public college tuition free for everyone and wiping out student loan debt by taxing Wall Street. He really pushed Hillary Clinton on this issue.

On Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s plan:

Hillary Clinton has developed a more moderate plan than Senator Sanders. Over the summer, Clinton proposed making public college debt-free for families than earn less than $125,000 annually. 

Her campaign says Clinton would provide federal incentives to states that reinvest in their public colleges. She also wants to punish universities that fail to control their costs and to reduce tuition.

Critics of the plan say it carries unintended consequences and presents a kind of moral hazard because it could spend taxpayer dollars on families that don’t really need it.

On Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan:

Donald Trump didn’t really talk about higher education and student debt at length until last month, during a rally in Columbus, Ohio. During that rally, Trump said he wanted to encourage colleges to cut costs and limit spending on administrative bloat. 

At that rally he also said the federal government has a right to expect that colleges control their costs and invest their resources in students. If they don’t, Trump threatened to hold them accountable “by reconsidering whether those with huge endowments deserve to keep those endowments tax-exempt.” 

Like Clinton, Trump wants to make the debt burden more manageable. He has proposed capping student loan repayments at 12.5 percent of graduates’ income and eliminating remaining debt entirely after 15 years.Right now the Obama administration is capping debt payments at 10 percent of disposable income, and forging any remaining debt after 20 years so Trump’s plan could actually cost the government more than what the Obama administration is doing right now. 

Critics say colleges could do more to control their costs and we need to do more to reduce debt burden, but they say the real problem is that states, including Massachusetts, have cut so much funding, that that’s shifted the costs to students and families.

>> Editor’s note: Interview and Interview Highlights have been edited for length and clarity.

confronting cost, increasing access and success

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