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Student Debt Makes It Onto The Campaign Trail05:28
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In this May 20, 2013 photo, graduates pose for photographs during commencement at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. (Jessica Hill/AP)
In this May 20, 2013 photo, graduates pose for photographs during commencement at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. (Jessica Hill/AP)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Student loans hover front and center in the minds of recent and even not-so-recent college graduates, and now they’re weighing on politicians' minds too.

It’s still early in the 2016 presidential race, but candidates from both parties, including Republican Marco Rubio and Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, have already been discussing escalating debt and the lack of affordable college access, and proposing solutions.

Barmak Nassirian, who directs federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, told Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti that higher education isn’t normally this talked-about in campaigns for the White House.

"The fear is that simplistic solutions will become campaign promises that have to be delivered on."

Barmak Nassirian

Nassirian said all of this talk about higher ed on the campaign trail is a symptom of the $1.3 trillion in student debt in the U.S., and its impact on two major voting blocs: 20-somethings and the parents of college-age children.

"People who know a lot more about politics than I do suggest that the whole prospect of sending their kids to college is now so terrifying to parents that it has now replaced anxiety around healthcare affordability as a dominant theme in American life," Nassirian said.

While he thinks it’s a good thing that candidates are talking about higher education, Nassirian said that industry insiders are "terrified" of the promises candidates are making on the campaign trail.

"Higher ed is a fairly complicated industry and the campaign trail doesn’t tend to produce particularly nuanced policy," he explained. "The fear is that simplistic solutions will become campaign promises that have to be delivered on, and may end up leaving us arguably worse off."

Guest

This segment aired on July 20, 2015.

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