The cost of college makes everyone want to cry. Now add COVID-19.
In the past few decades, the cost of college has gone up, up, annnd up, contributing to the nation’s $1.5 trillion student debt problem. Millennials are saying 'we wish' to traditional milestones that contribute to economic growth – like buying a house. Some are graduating with debt only to be underemployed – at a time when unemployment is also skyrocketing.
All of this has led to a debate about how to make college more affordable and help graduates manage their debt. And about whether college is worth its hefty price tag if students aren't necessarily living and learning on campus. Proposals from 2020 candidates range from making four-year public schools completely free to increasing debt forgiveness for certain professions.
The latest wrench in all this: COVID-19. The Trump admin has let people with federal student loans pause their payments for several weeks. But the future of college remains uncertain as it’s unclear if many colleges will open their doors this fall. In the meantime, much of the country’s K-12 education system has had to adapt to remote learning. But many lower-income families struggle with insufficient internet and computer access.
Meanwhile, a wave of teacher strikes that started in 2018 brought attention to low teacher salaries. And with millions of parents stuck at home with their kids during school days, many have a newfound appreciation for the work that teachers do.
Education is seen as a critical pathway to economic opportunity. Here’s where the candidates stand:
President Donald Trump
Set aside tens of billions of dollars to help schools adapt during pandemic, eg remote learning
Supports school vouchers (giving students public funds to go to private or charter schools)
Proposed a cap to the amount of federal student loans graduate students and parents can take on
Reduce # of available repayment plans
Former VP Joe Biden
Supports funding to help with remote learning during pandemic
Two years of free community college or job training
Universal pre-k for three and four-year-olds
Reinstate Obama-era policy to ensure schools are desegregating
Increase funding for schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families
Up teachers' paychecks, give them more student loan forgiveness
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