Primary season is upon us, and presidential candidates are working to inform voters about their stances on many of the hot-button issues facing their audiences. For example, Bernie Sanders has attracted the attention of many members of the Millennial generation with his plan to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities. But how realistic are fully-funded federal subsidies for higher education?
The Millennials, or Generation Y, were born in the early 1980s through the early 2000s, many of whom were in elementary school - if they had even been born - when Sanders first took office in 1991. For the majority of his political career, even the oldest of his Millennial supporters were in school, and are now in their early 30s and still paying off college loans.
Sanders' higher-education funding plan has been endorsed by college professors and influencers as a program that will benefit both tenured and adjunct educators - even as he promotes the advantages it will provide students.
Sanders poses that a college education - and better yet, a federally-subsidized college education - will give students the advantage they need to fare well in the workforce. Unfortunately, though, colleges and universities are often adding amenities like gyms, coffee shops, and cinemas with federal funds granted to their institutions. The funds are not always used to improve education for students.
Many employers are worrying that the members of the Millennial generation are missing the skills they will need to succeed, and Sanders’ recent statement that college degrees are now equal to high school degrees is not reassuring the workplace.
In addition to federal subsidies being used to improve the collegiate environment instead of the education, federal funding for student loans is not a new idea. Bill Clinton started an Income-Driven Repayment program during his time as president; George W. Bush made some slight modifications, and in 2010, President Obama significantly grew the program.
Income-Driven Repayment has five sub-programs that, in essence, cap monthly payments on the loan at 10 to 15 percent of student’s monthly income. After a certain set period, the remaining debt is forgiven. Additionally, students who enroll in the public service loan forgiveness program will have their debts forgiven in as few as ten years by committing to work in public service - most often, the government.
Sanders is planning to increase this, and other debt repayment programs and subsidies, without making students pay a dime, he says. However, most individuals will be paying for the subsidies with their most precious commodity: their time. As you vote this year, consider learning more about Sanders’ plans to subsidize higher education.