Education has been called a “winning political issue hiding in plain sight,” as students have been demanding their representatives take bold positions to make education work for more people in the United States. A recent poll of 1,500 U.S. adults found education is the most important issue for 18-29 year olds, even when compared to the economy, health care, and twelve other pressing issues facing the country.2 More broadly, people in the United States see higher education as an important step toward pursuing their dreams, but they worry about how debt affects students’ ability to complete their education and save money.
Additionally, while the overwhelming majority of young people are passionate about quality, affordable higher education, there are racial inequities built in the system that require direct intervention. In 2015, over 36 percent of white adults had completed a bachelor’s degree or more, while black and Latinx attainment rates sat at 23 and 15 percent. Those gaps have grown wider over the last thirty years, and the numbers on affordability largely follow the same pattern: African American and Hispanic families have to dedicate 11 and 6 percent more of their income to afford higher education than white families.
Candidates and campaigns should work to ensure that higher education reform directly addresses racial inequities. To that end, Young Invincibles conducted surveys and roundtables with young people in six different metro areas during the past year. Their responses allowed Young Invincibles to build on years of policy and advocacy work on behalf of students by creating this student-focused agenda for the 2018 midterm elections. This modernizing agenda, rooted in reducing inequities in the system, features a range of policy solutions that cut across parties and politics and that go beyond a simple injection of money into the system. Making sure more people can get a postsecondary degree should be imperative for every candidate and every party.