By Stephen Konecny
Student loans were a popular and heated topic in the 2016 presidential election.
The 20.2 million college students in the United States have an average of just over $30,000 in student loan debt, according to ticas.org, a website that deals with college funding for low income families.
From 2004-2014, the loan debt per student was $18,500 to almost $29,000, and it’s increased by about $1,000 in the last two years, according to nces.ed.gov, a national center for education statistics.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has come up with a plan to help forgive a portion of student loans. Clinton’s plan could help alleviate the loans of 60 percent of current or former college students, according to studentdebtrelief.us, which helps set up payment plans for people with student loans.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump also has a plan, a major point of which is to force institutions with large endowments to spend more of that money on students or risk loss of their tax-exempt status according to Trump’s website. In a speech given in Columbus, OH, Trump said his plan also includes a repayment plan, which will cap payments at 12.5 percent of the borrowers’s income, and the borrower would have to make payments for 15 years.
“That’s probably one of the only things the government shouldn’t make money off — I think it’s terrible that one of the only profit centers we have is student loans,” Trump said in a recent speech, according to an article from yahoofinance.com.
Even though Clinton and Trump have addressed student loan issues, college students aren’t convinced. “I don’t believe what they say and I don’t think they’re going to do anything about it,” Western Michigan University senior Autumn Northcutt said. “It’s not what their primary focus is on. Their primary focus isn’t on students or the people growing up in this nation, it’s about the nation itself.”
Another cause of student’s skepticism is that they’re hearing these plans and comments from politicians who have never had to deal with student loans, and they find it really hard to relate to them. “I would say there’s definitely a disconnect; it’s two completely different ends of the spectrum,” WMU senior Trey Sobolewski said. “I don’t really see how someone like Trump or Clinton could really speak on what it’s like today to go to college and working a couple of jobs.”
“I don’t think that it’s ideal for anyone,” said Sobolewski about the current state of student loans. “I definitely think there needs to be some restructuring, to help out students to at least get on their feet without thousands of dollars in debt.”
If the current trend continues, parents with young kids are dreading the day that their kids have to take out student loans. “At this point, I can’t even imaging how much student loan debt my kids would have if they have to take out student loans,” Glen Dillon, the manager of student media at WMU, said. “The current structure is a mess, and I really think it needs some attention.”