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2016 Millennial Memo (July 15, 2015): Keeping tabs on higher education debates

2016 MILLENNIAL MEMO (7/15/2015)
481 days to go…
Because I’m still on a high from the TSwift concert at Nats Park this past Monday, here is a fun fact for the week: Taylor Swift sends fans $1,989 to help pay their student loans. I’m keeping hope alive that I’m next in line. Meanwhile, here’s what borrowers should know about where our presidential candidates stand on the issue.
CHRISTIE SAYS STUDENT DEBT ONE OF TOP TWO ISSUES NH RESIDENTS ASK HIM ABOUT: According to the Asbury Park Press, in an interview on Fox & Friends, Governor Chris Christie “said the top two issues people in New Hampshire ask him about are terrorism, specifically the Islamic State, and student debt accumulated by college students.”
WALKER SIGNS $250M CUT TO UW SYSTEM INTO LAW: “Gov. Scott Walker signed the next Wisconsin state budget into law on Sunday, brushing aside complaints from his own party about the $73 billion spending plan and fulfilling his promise to get it done before he announces he is running for the Republican nomination for president…
“The Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee handed the governor a string of defeats as it spent months revising the two-year budget. The committee scrapped his plans to grant the University of Wisconsin System autonomy from state oversight and scaled back a $300 million cut the governor wanted to impose on the system by $50 million.” (Associated Press, 7/12/2015)
BUSH RESPONDS ON O’MALLEY DEBT-FREE COLLEGE PLAN: “Asked by NH1 News what he thought of the idea of debt-free college, Bush said ‘just wipe the 1.2 trillion dollars of debt without reform of our higher education system, more free stuff. I think the focus ought to be on how we reform higher education so that full time students can get a four year degree in four years and they’ll be able to access a job because we’ll have a higher growth economy than the one that he’s probably proposing.’” (NH1, July 8, 2015)
O’MALLEY STRIKES BACK: To respond to Bush’s comments, O’Malley (D-MD) took to Twitter: “.@JebBush no, debt-free college is not about ‘free stuff.’ It’s about providing opportunities for every American.”
O’MALLEY CRITICIZED FOR USING HIS FAMILY’S EXPERIENCE WITH STUDENT DEBT IN EFFORT TO SELL HIS PLAN: “O’Malley revealed last week that he and his wife borrowed $339,200 to put their two eldest children through college… Using outlier examples like these to make political (and journalistic) points is common, but loans like the O’Malleys’ are not typical. In fact, stories about them may do more harm than good. ‘It can potentially frighten off those lower-income people who can most benefit from higher education,’ said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Without a post-secondary degree, it is much harder to move up the economic ladder or even remain in the middle class. [O’Malley] has used his own example to underscore his reasoning [for pushing his plan] in campaign messages.” (Reuters, 7/13/2015)
SIZING UP THE PLANS: On the heels of the release of Governor O’Malley’s debt-free college plan, Mic’s Zeeshan Aleem measures up how the candidates’ plans compare: “O’Malley’s language of debt-free is in some ways more ambitious in scope than Sanders’ plan for free tuition. That being said, Sanders has also suggested increasing Pell grants, and depending on exactly how big he would make that expansion, he could effectively be reducing the cost of non-tuition-related expenses for lower-income students in a manner that matches O’Malley. The reality is that more details are needed to attempt to ultimately determine which plan would best serve the poor and the middle class.”
DOES CLINTON’S STUDENT DEBT EXPERIENCE PREVIEW HER PLAN?:A re-released video from Manchester’s WMUR shows that Senator Rubio and former Governor O’Malley are not the only ones talking about their personal experiences with student debt. Speaking to a group of locals at a New Hampshire coffee house in 2008, Clinton said: “When I went to law school, I did not have any help from my family. I had to work. I got a little tiny scholarship that helped a little, but I had to borrow money. But in those days, you could borrow money from the federal government at 2 percent interest and I could also be in what is called an income-contingency program, because when I got out of law school, I didn’t want to go work for a big law firm. I wanted to go work for the Children’s Defense Fund. I wasn’t gonna make any money, right? So I only had to pay my loan back according to a percent of my income. That makes it possible [to repay].”
LOCAL OUTLET RESPONDS TO JINDAL’S PRAISE OF LA’S HIGHER EDUCATION STATUS QUO: In an appearance on Fox News Sunday this past weekend, Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) said: “I am proud that we found a tax credit – a tax cut – for working families paying tuition. Look, in a lot of states, tuition is going up. In Louisiana, we have the second lowest tuition in the South. We are one of the best states when it comes to students graduating with student debt. This is a huge problem nationally.”
According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, “Since 2008 — the year Jindal took office as governor — tuition at four-year public universities in Louisiana has increased by an average of 67.2 percent, the fourth-highest rate in the country, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In that same period, Louisiana’s state government cut per-student support for the schools by $4,931, the largest reduction in the nation, the study showed.” (The Advocate, July 12, 2015)
DES MOINES REGISTER POLITICAL COLUMNIST ON RUBIO PUNCHLINE: In a piece outlining the conversation around higher education in this presidential campaign, Des Moines Register political columnist Kathie Obradovich writes “[Rubio has] said before students take out loans, colleges should be required to tell them how much they can expect to make after graduating in their chosen field. ‘So you can decide whether it’s worth borrowing $50,000 a year to study, you know, I don’t want to offend anybody. Roman history? Are there any Romans here?’ …The United States needs more people who know how to work with their hands, as Rubio says, but we should not pit that priority against the need to preserve and improve our four-year institutions. Greek philosophy may make a good political punchline, but it teaches people how to use their heads. And those are the kinds of folks who often end up hiring the welders.”
PATAKI CALLS FOR A PROFIT-FREE FEDERAL LOAN PROGRAM: In an interview with the Skimm last week, former Governor George Pataki (R-NY) said of student debt: “College is way too expensive. I think that universities and colleges have gotten used to the fact that students don’t object to higher tuition or fees because they borrow it….We have to work with universities…to lower the costs and to provide options for students, so you’re not stuck paying this one flat level if you don’t want certain services. The second thing the federal government should do is not make money off of student loans.”
MEASURING UP MILLENNIALS: No Millennial-specific polling this week, but check out the new Suffolk/USA Today poll out this week. Lots of interesting questions and, of course, keep an eye on who’s rounding out the top 10 candidates in the Republican primary ahead of the first debate on August 6th.
Simplifying Financial Aid: Gates Foundation Joins the Chorus, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Kelly Field