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Millennials look to election for student debt solutions

With the 2016 presidential elections coming quickly, Americans are looking deeper into the candidates’ stances on important issues and policies. An issue that has been particularly important to millennials is student debt accumulation compared to income rates upon college graduation. This directly affects millennials who are in college and entering the workforce upon graduation.

Student debt has substantially increased over the last twenty years. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “between 1992 and 2012, the average amount owed by a typical student loan borrower who graduated with a bachelor’s degree more than doubled to a total of nearly $27,000.” Other sources show a 2016 graduate will have accumulated closer to $38,000 in debt. Recent college graduates are also struggling with finding jobs that will provide them with enough money to pay off student debt in a reasonable amount of time.

NMSU student Sarah Hoch

With these statistics laid out and an upcoming election, some Americans are wondering how this problem will be solved by whoever is elected.

NMSU student Dave Klein provided an interesting take on the subject: “A lot of people aren’t getting jobs because they don’t have any real-world experience or even know how to work,” he said. “Students take out student loans and live off of them.”

Klein said student loans play a large role in why people aren’t getting the jobs they want upon graduating. Because they are living off of the loans instead of obtaining a job during college, they lack the work experience employers are looking for. According to Klein, students are only in class to learn about their field, not gain the necessary experience to excel in it.

Although neither major party presidential candidate has touched on the issue very much, Hillary Clinton has publicly announced the policy she will put into place as president of the United States. Under Clinton’s published education plan, by 2021 the government will allow families with an income of $125,000 or less to attend an in-state university for four years for free. Along with this policy, she has stated that “all community colleges will offer free tuition.”

Mrs. Clinton’s plan also states there will be immediate action taken to offer a three-month moratorium on student loan payments for all federal loan borrowers. That will give every borrower a chance to consolidate their loans, sign up for income-based repayment plans, and take advantage of opportunities to reduce their monthly interest payments and fees.

One former New Mexico State student who has obtained a large amount of student debt over the course of three years stands in favor of Clinton’s policies.

“I had to leave NMSU one semester before graduating,” said Sarah Hoch, 22, a former NMSU student. “I couldn’t afford to keep taking out student loans. I was working full time and going to school full time and I could never catch up.”

Hoch said she felt she had to relocate to an area with higher pay in her field in order to get back on her feet. Although she said she doesn’t agree with either candidate completely, she does stand with Clinton when it comes to student debt.

NMSU graduate Kaylin Sullivan

On the more conservative side of the presidential race, Donald Trump, a Republican, has not spoken much about his higher education policy plans.

Brustein and Manasevit Attorneys At Law, a Washington D.C. legal firm that specializes in education and workforce law, released a report last July stating, “Donald Trump’s particular views on education remain somewhat unclear,” and that he has “offered up very little at this point in the campaign.”

According to Donald Trump’s official website, Trump’s published policy views on education mostly address K–12 education in general terms, and do not focus specifically on higher education and student debt.

Trump’s points on economic growth include: tax reform, regulatory reform, trade reform, and energy reform. Trump has also talked at length about creating jobs in America, which some argue will indirectly address student debt problems.

NMSU graduate, Kaylin Sullivan, 26, says although she has yet to decide whom to vote for, she believes hard work really does pay off.

“I took out student loans, went to school for five years and graduated with a bachelor’s in early education,” Sullivan said. “I worked hard through school and appreciated where my loans were going.”

Sullivan said that her student loans are what helped her get to where she is now. She used her loans for what they were meant for, and now has a job that equips her to make her loan payments on time.

Upon graduating, Sullivan has taught at Rio Grande Elementary School in Hatch, New Mexico, and is now the director of an early childhood development center in Las Cruces.

“If you work hard enough, you’ll get through it regardless of the loans,” Sullivan said.

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