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College Affordability: A Defining Issue for Young Americans this Election

College Affordability: A Defining Issue for Young Americans this Election

Washington, DC – With the 2018 midterm elections quickly approaching and student debt at historic levels, rarely have young people had as much at stake in an election as they will when they cast their vote in November. Up and down the ballot, young people will have an opportunity to vote for candidates that will make decisions about our higher education system, including the mounting student debt crisis facing the country.

With student debt skyrocketing and the economy requiring more than a high school education to get a decent job after graduation, college affordability has become a defining challenge facing this generation. Here are some of the reasons college affordability is such an important issue for young people this election:

With young people facing historic levels of student debt, college affordability is holding young people back.

  • Polls show that an affordable 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.
  • Meanwhile, student debt has topped $1.5 trillion nationally, more than doubling from just ten years ago.
  • In fact, for the first time in history, today’s young adults with a college degree and student loan debt have a negative net wealth. College grads with student debt have an average net wealth of -$1,900 – a decline of approximately $9,000 from 2013.

For many, college debt isn’t a choice – it’s a necessity to get a decent job.

  • Georgetown University estimates that by 2020, 65% of all jobs will require a postsecondary education.
  • In fact, more than 95% of jobs since the Recession have gone to someone with at least some college education.

The future of affordable education is at stake in this election.

  • This Congress has considered bills to make college debt free, simplify the FAFSA, expand Pell Grants, hold colleges responsible for their students graduating with skills that lead to jobs, reform work-study programs, invest in campus child care, streamline loan repayment, and protect students from predatory schools.
  • Young people recognize what’s at stake this election. Recent polls show that one-third of young people are “absolutely certain” to vote, and 56% are likely to vote.
  • Meanwhile, young people are hungry for new ideas in Washington. 79 percent of young people say leaders from their generation would do a better job running the country than older generations.

“Across the country, young people are standing up and demanding that candidates for elected office speak to the issues impacting this generation,” said Reid Setzer, Government Affairs Director for Young Invincibles, a national non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for young people. “More than any other group, young people are being left behind by this economy, buried under skyrocketing student debt and a job market that stacks the deck against achieving financial security when they leave school. This election, young people will send Washington a message: Make a quality, affordable education available to everyone.”

With virtually every social movement over the past two years being driven by the passion and dedication of young people, young voters have a real opportunity to elect leaders that have their best interests at heart.

“As a first-generation college student and immigrant, I’m grateful that state and federal financial aid programs exist because they have made it easier for me to focus on my education and less on financial obstacles,” said Murshedur Shahy, an Environmental Engineering Student at City College of New York. “I would not have been able to attend college full-time and stay on track to graduate within four years without these programs. This fall, college affordability will definitely be on my mind when I cast my vote.”