Lots of ideas about higher-education affordability are being scattered around the campaign trail.
For the most part, what we’ve heard so far isn’t all that new. Take for example Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) and former Governor Martin O’Malley’s calls for universal income-based repayment plans, Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) advocacy for tax-deductible college tuition, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) desire to reduce interest rates on federal student loans and former Governor Jeb Bush’s enthusiasm for online courses and for-profit institutions.
Then there are certain concepts that some (probably) hope will be viewed as examples of their courage to think outside the box.
Senator Rubio is stumping for so-called human-capital contracts, where wealthy individuals “invest” in students whom they believe have promising futures (as determined by their choice of school, major areas of study, academic performance and so forth) in exchange for a percentage of their career earnings. Senator Sanders wants to institute a tax on specific Wall Street transactions to cover the cost of tuition for in-state public colleges, while former Governor O’Malley has in mind a forced price reduction as a starting point.
Certainly, higher-education affordability is a legitimately hot-button matter for just about everyone: the 20 million students who are enrolled in two- and four-year colleges and grad schools; those who are funding their own educations; those who are still paying off their loans after having left school; parents who are bankrolling or backstopping costs; and taxpayers who are left holding the bag when government-sponsored loans end up uncollectable.
The anxiety level for students is high.
Ohio State University recently published a National Student Financial Wellness Study involving students from 52 public and private four- and two-year colleges and universities. Of the nearly 19,000 students who participated, 72% report feeling “stressed about [their] personal finances in general,” of which 60% are concerned about “having enough money to pay for school.” With good reason: 48% expect to owe more than the current national average of $30,000 upon graduation.