The 2016 Presidential Candidates on Higher Education

Hillary Clinton

The cost of a college education has become a central issue in Democrat Hillary Clinton’s platform, with the candidate believing that the cost of education is holding the economy back. Clinton seeks to allow any students with family incomes below $125,000 to attend public colleges free of tuition by 2021. This would include free community college. Her hope is to also eliminate tuition for students with family incomes below $85,000 right away, if elected.

Clinton also details her policies on student debt. Clinton would like to limit repayment of federal student loans to 10 percent of one’s income for a maximum of 20 years. Additionally, Clinton would seek to help delinquent/defaulting borrowers, cut interest rates, limit predatory educational institutions, institute a payroll reduction system for employees and employers to pay debt, and allow entrepreneurs to defer loan payments for up to three years with no extra fees. All of this would be topped off by Clinton’s intentions to issue an executive order for a three-month moratorium on all student loan payments to allow graduates some time to get a hold of their finances.

This program, says Clinton, would be funded by limiting certain tax expenditures on high-income taxpayers and to call on all levels of those involved with the public university system—states, universities, and even students—to both limit expenses and pitch in effort to help finance university operations.

Donald Trump

Republican candidate Donald Trump advocates for more efficiency in education budgets, promoting school choice at the primary and secondary levels, particularly for those in poverty. On college costs, however, Trump seeks to work on reforms with Congress to ensure that universities are working to reduce both cost and resulting student debt, which, under Trump’s policy, would allow institutions to receive federal tax breaks and funding.

Moreover, Trump’s goal is to “ensure that the opportunity to attend, a two or four-year college, or to pursue a trade or skill set through vocational and technical education, will be easier to access, pay for, and finish.” Trump states that he, among other changes, wants to limit the gap between spending and education quality in the U.S. in comparison to other nations. In a speech, Trump has also highlighted an income-cap on student loan repayment: 12.5 percent of one’s income for a maximum of 15 years.

Gary Johnson

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson supports big changes to education in the U.S., which would include the full-blown disbandment of the Department of Education. Johnson emphasizes state and local control of education rather than any federal control. On federal student loans, he states, “If there were no guaranteed federal student loans, higher education would be much more affordable.” Johnson believes that the federal government caused the student debt “crisis.”

Regarding education as a whole, Johnson believes that public schools should embrace a type of innovation students would support in situations where they have a say in their education. He believes that increased competition among schools can improve their quality.

Jill Stein

Education is a major topic in the Green Party candidate’s “Power to the People Plan.” Stein supports “…tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university.” Additionally, Stein seeks to eliminate student debt entirely, calling for a full abolition of student debt to “free a generation of Americans from debt servitude.” Stein also wants to end high-stakes testing in education and the privatization of schools.