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2016 MILLENNIAL MEMO (August 24, 2016): Keeping tabs on higher education debates

2016 MILLENNIAL MEMO (August 24, 2016)

With students headed back to school, keep an eye out for candidates on campuses across the country. Is a candidate your school? Drop me a note at and let me know. We’re just over a month away from the first presidential debate and 76 days away from Election Day. For those of you able to take it, enjoy the upcoming Labor Day holiday!

JOHNSON BLAMES ACCESS TO LOANS FOR HIGH TUITION, SUGGESTS CAPPING INTEREST RATES: In a Libertarian Party forum hosted by Fusion, presidential candidate Gary Johnson and vice presidential candidate William Weld discussed “issues affecting the rising American mainstream” including higher education. Governor Johnson said: “The government should not be involved in student loans… and that’s the reason for the high cost of college tuition. I think if government would have never gotten involved, tuition would be half of what it is… I do think students have been sold a bill of goods… If we can bail out Wall Street, I think we would be open to legislation that might cap those interest rates because students have been sold a bill of goods.” Watch the full forum here. (Higher ed section begins at 17:32)

WELD CALLS FOR CUTTING COSTS THROUGH EXPANDING ONLINE LEARNING, 3-YEAR PUBLIC SERVICE LOAN FORGIVENESS: Governor Weld added: “I think we have to change the delivery system for higher ed. I think the four-year bricks and mortar system is the most expensive possible delivery system… Many more of the courses could be offered via distance learning online education, which is a fraction of the cost. And many, many studies have showed that people who learn online, remotely that is,… retain the subject matter better… Both for the government and for private enterprises, we want to make sure that programs are available so students can intern during college, not have the debt when they graduate, and have a job waiting. Or if it’s a question of a contract with the government, they could have their student debt forgiven in exchange for agreeing to go into public service for say three years.”

NPR COVERS CLINTON’S MILLENNIAL OUTREACH: “The Clinton campaign is trying to reach all corners of this generation with a strategy that includes both college and noncollege voters. “Ninety percent of babies that were born last year were born to millennials,” said Sarah Audelo, the campaign’s millennial vote director. “A lot of what we’re doing is thinking about how we’re going to reach millennial parents … looking at issues like child care.” Clinton also recently penned an essay in Teen Vogue, made a pitch to a millennial-owned business in Iowa, and praised apprenticeships in Nevada. Her campaign is flooding college campuses with organizers and volunteers.” (All Things Considered, 8/22/2016)

CFPB HITS WELLS FARGO W/ $4 MILLION FINE FOR STUDENT DEBT MISDEEDS: “Thousands of student-loan borrowers will receive refunds from Wells Fargo after the government hit the bank with $4 million in penalties for charging illegal fees, misrepresenting payments and failing to update inaccurate credit report information. On Monday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said Wells Fargo illegally charged late fees to consumers who made payments on the last day of their grace periods, as well as those who elected to pay through partial payments. The government agency said the bank also failed to update and correct inaccurate, negative information provided to credit-reporting companies about borrowers who made partial or extra payments.” (Washington Post, August 22, 2016)

STUDENT DEBT RELIEF COMPANIES’ EXPLOITATION OF BORROWERS REMAINS A PROBLEM: “Desperate borrowers go to websites claiming loan “forgiveness” and often get charged for free government services. It’s clearly a swindle, but federal regulators have been slow to shut it down. When I started looking at these firms more than two years ago, I noticed that they would always pop up first in online searches for student loans. But none of them were legitimate government sites run by the U.S. Department of Education, which can help you consolidate or change loan repayment plans for free. While the FTC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and other state attorneys general have attempted to shut down the most egregious players in this industry one at a time, there has been a void where strong regulation should be. Broad enforcement is sorely lacking while the CFPB continues to probe these exploitative practices. The larger question is: If the government provides free services to cut your loan repayment bill, why aren’t millions of borrowers getting that message?” (CBS News, August 22, 2016)


OHIO–PORTMAN ENGAGES STUDENTS WITH CAMPAIGN SNAPCHAT FILTERS: “The Portman for Senate Campaign announced it purchased over 30 Snapchat Geofilters across Ohio to blanket college campuses as students return to classes for the start of the fall semester. In addition, Snapchat users at The Ohio State University were able to show support for Rob during move-in day in one filter and in another filter students were encouraged to join the campaign as interns during an activity fair. In total, the campaign targeted over 30 different colleges and universities with individual filters specific to the school, with more to come. Images of the some of the filters are below. Users can snap a picture and place the filters on top of their photos.” (Rob Portman for Senate, August 23, 2016)

NORTH CAROLINA–ROSS CALLS FOR INCREASING TRANSPARENCY AND INVESTING IN HIGHER ED: Last week, North Carolina Senate Candidate Deborah Ross spoke with Laura Leslie of WRAL about expanding the Pell Grant program and the importance of investing in education. Ross also said that to increase transparency, legislators must “bring universities to the table.” (WRAL, August 21, 2016)

WISCONSIN–JOHNSON CALLS FOR EXPANSION OF COMPETENCY-BASED EDUCATION: “U.S. Senator Ron Johnson…used an appearance [last week] to say the “higher education cartel” is raising prices and preventing reforms that would help college students learn at affordable prices. He criticized accreditors and tenured professors for blocking reforms. He said that he favored “certification,” in which people could demonstrate competency or skills in certain areas through testing rather than earning degrees. Johnson also said the education system could become much more affordable by changing the role of instruction. “We’ve got the internet — you have so much information available. Why do you have to keep paying different lecturers to teach the same course? You get one solid lecturer and put it up online and have everybody available to that knowledge for a whole lot cheaper? But that doesn’t play very well to tenured professors in the higher education cartel. So again, we need disruptive technology for our higher education system,” he said. Johnson added, “One of the examples I always used — if you want to teach the Civil War across the country, are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers that kind of know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns’s Civil War tape and then have those teachers proctor based on that excellent video production already done? You keep duplicating that over all these different subject areas.”” (Inside Higher Ed, August 22, 2016)

WISCONSIN–FEINGOLD SAYS STATES, UNIVERSITIES, FED GOVT, AND FAMILIES WHO CAN AFFORD TO PAY SHOULD SUBSIDIZE TUITION: “Democratic Senate candidate Russ Feingold …talked about college affordability early Monday morning. Feingold… told reporters… “I consider the issue of student loans and student debt to be one of the most important issues in the presidential race and in our race,” Feingold said. He said to help solve college affordability problems, there needs to be legislation like the bill  U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sponsored, which would allow students to refinance their student loans… Feingold said he would like to see a new program created that could prevent students from paying huge amounts of tuition. He said funding would need to be from the state, universities, federal government and families who can afford to pay.” (The Badger Herald, August 16, 2016)

NEW HAMPSHIRE–AYOTTE HIGHLIGHTS SUPPORT FOR COLLEGE SAVINGS EFFORTS: In a new campaign ad, Sen. Ayotte says she has worked to make it easier for students to save for college. Watch the ad here.

PENNSYLVANIA–MCGINTY PENS OP-ED DETAILING HIGHER ED PLANS: “Students and families today are faced with…truly out-of-this-world college costs. The impact: College is simply beyond reach for many young people. Let’s enable more young people to obtain the skills needed to succeed by passing President Barack Obama’s proposal to make the first two years of community college free for hardworking students. And in the Senate, I will lead the fight to restore funding to job training and apprenticeship programs, and sign on to proposals that offer tax credits and other incentives to employers who invest in their workers. For those who do choose to pursue a four-year degree, I’ll push to put a lid on the cost of college. Let’s insist schools keep tuition costs down, and then link federal support directly to schools’ success in controlling costs. I am proud to support Secretary Clinton’s initiative to make public universities debt free for families with incomes up to $125,000 by 2021. Let’s expand — and make permanent — the American opportunity tax credit so that middle-class families get a tax break for college. And let’s stand strong for the Pell Grant program. Nearly 300,000 Pennsylvanians depend on Pell Grants and I’ll fight for those families. Finally, have you seen where interest rates are? They are at historic lows. Let’s back Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to enable families to take advantage of those rates and refinance.” (Centre Daily Times, August 16, 2016)