When questioned about main concerns for the country, CCSU students reacted in the same way I react to a math test, apprehension coupled with uncertainty. Despite gender, race, or age, most students weren’t too eager to discuss the upcoming Presidential election, probably because it’s riddled with controversy, polarized hate, and just general confusion. The SNL skits of the candidates seem like real news feeds based on the ridiculousness of the race as depicted in the media.
What students did seem eager to discuss, however, were issues here on campus, which isn’t just going to be an issue for incoming president Zulma R. Toro but also for the new United States President. Given the stereotype that college students live off a diet of ramen and have to save every cent for laundry (in other words, we’re cash-starved), it’s no surprise that our main concern centers around tuition, and the impending student debt we will all carry on our post-graduation backs.
According to studentloanhero.com, 44.2 million Americans have some amount of student loan debt, with an average balance of about $37,000. CCSU thankfully ranks low on the list of Connecticut’s most expensive four-year colleges, Wesleyan University and Yale University topping off with a whopping average of a $50,000 tuition per year. CCSU is tied with Eastern Connecticut State University at about $11,000 per academic year. But despite our much more affordable tuition prices, students are still struggling with payments and fearing the impending debt. It’s no surprise that a common joke among students when asked about post-graduation remains, “I’m excited to be broke for the rest of my life once I graduate!”
So how do our two front runners handle college students’ anxiety over student loans? Not as well as we’d all hope. Americans watched the presidential debates between the strong-willed Hillary Clinton and the strongly opinionated Donald Trump in the hopes of finally hearing the real issues and solidifying their opinions on who should be the rightful successor to President Obama.
Both candidates, in their pursuit of not only trying to make themselves look good but trying to make their opponent look worse, decided to spend most of their time focusing on the scandals and allegations that social media has been following for the past year while throwing in a few vague ideas and hazy policies. Not a word was mentioned about education or tuition costs in the first two debates, but in the third and final debate the discussion of college tuition was finally brought up, albeit briefly.
To discover the details of Clinton’s plan—most of it having been proposed by a millennial favorite Bernie Sanders who’s repeatedly said, “We should have free tuition at public schools and universities.” (Yes, feel the Bern)—students need to look no further than hillaryclinton.com, the website she has mentioned more times in the election than anything about lowering student debt. Under the header “Making college debt-free and taking on student debt,” her plan is laid out. Clinton plans to eliminate tuition for students attending public colleges or universities, and forgive students their debt after twenty years. She plans to redirect some of the tax spending in order to afford this. For students who are graduating soon or are already graduated, her plan will also help by cutting the amount students need to pay back so that they never pay more than 10 percent of their income.
Clinton also has plans to specifically encourage and fund historically black universities and colleges. She hopes that by helping and funding more minority based schools, this will increase the opportunities for the groups of people struggling unfairly to earn a place in middle class society.
We should have free tuition…
On the Donald’s site, donaldjtrump.com (his middle initial added in perhaps for a professional flair), his plans for secondary education are briefly explained with about the same amount of specificity as he includes in his speeches, so not much. He proposes to giving every student in twelfth grade and under who are currently living in poverty a $12,000 scholarship to attend any public college or university of their choice—poverty being defined as a yearly income of $11,000 to $50,000 depending on size of household.
Trump plans to re-prioritize federal funds to create 20 billion dollars to back his “School Choice” proposal. Both candidates explain their funding for education in similarly vague terms, but from where exactly this money will come from is anyone’s guess.
This lack of concrete clarity is why students feel so uneasy in their opinions about Trump and Clinton; they feel that the issues the students care most about are being overlooked, and under-prioritized, as well as lost in all the allegations and scandals ravaging news and online media.
The CCSU community has many concerns for the country: race, police brutality, climate change, international affairs and a slew of other topics that need to be addressed by the future president. This election will end, but students’ worry over student debt will continue. It doesn’t need to be a financial trap awaiting graduates. All we can hope is that the new president will remember the students, and help make college education not a burden, but a gateway to a better life.