The first question asked during the second presidential debate was from a college student, expressing fear at the prospect of what his future might hold after he graduates.
“What can you say to reassure me... that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?” asked Jeremy Epstein, a 20-year-old student at Adelphi University in New York.
This question weighs heavily on the minds of college students throughout the country as they head to the polls in just one week. A critical role in this question is student debt, and the monthly payments that two-thirds of graduates will have to pay after switching their tassel in the spring.
At Virginia Tech alone, 52 percent of students rely in some part on loans, and an average Tech student graduates with $24,320 in debt. This number contributes to the more than $1 trillion owed by students in the U.S., surpassing outstanding credit-card debt.
The Collegiate Times breaks down the most important information for students about each candidate’s proposals regarding student loans, student debt and reforming the higher-education system.
What has the Obama administration done to diminish the cost of education for students?
Dealing with the cost of higher education has been a central focus of the Obama administration for the past four years. An overlooked portion of his healthcare law actually focuses on higher education.
In 2010, as part of an amendment to the health-care bill, Obama signed the Education Reconciliation Act. The act made major changes to federal loan programs for college students. The act capped student loan payments at 10 percent of a recent graduate’s monthly income and also allowed student loans to be forgiven if they were not paid off after 20 years. Graduates who end up working in the public sector, such as being a teacher or member of the armed forces, can take advantage of debt forgiveness after only 10 years.
These steps were taken to reduce the burden of debt for students who've received federal loans, subsidized or unsubsidized. Parts of the act were also directed at reducing the overall cost of loans and creating a system where fewer loans might be necessary by increased spending on grants, money that does not have to be paid back.
The legislation created a Direct Loan program meant to cut out middlemen bankers, or private companies acting as a middleman in federal student loan transactions. All federal loans are now handled directly by the federal government, ending subsidies that pay a banker — a cost that students were paying for.
With the money saved from the creation of the Direct Loan program, the legislation increases spending on federal Pell Grants, one of the largest and most frequently distributed federal grant systems.
However, this legislation represented a compromise from what Obama initially pushed for. Funding for an alternative grant program, meant to help diminish the necessity of loans, was cut from $3 billion to $750 million. Proposed funding for community colleges was also cut from $10 billion to $2 billion.