Presidential candidates prioritize higher education in campaigns
The 2016 presidential election may be a year away, but many candidates are already spreading their political messages about higher education.
Many students at UCF are ready to hear what these presidential hopefuls have to say.
“As a college student, you want candidates that vote in your favor,” said Chelsea Daley, president of College Democrats at UCF. “For example, you want lower tuition, lower interests rates on your student loans and to be able to find a job after college.”
Zoltan Istvan, a third-party candidate, is the founder of the Transhumanist Party, a political organization formed in 2014, dedicated to using science and technology to improve the world’s problems, according to its website.
In the next 30 years, Istvan said he believes the average human lifespan will be well over 100. Because of our extended existence, he said that both college and preschool should be made mandatory, and everyone should have access to higher education.
“Our main goal is to increase education periods in people’s lives so they have more opportunities. … Especially since they’ll be living longer lives,” he said.
To accomplish this, he said he would pull money from the country’s defense funds and prison systems.
As for prolonging our lifespans, Istvan said through new technologies like 3-D organ printing and stem cell research, we as a society can overcome human death.
“We target college students more than any other demographic because they are open to this type of technology,” he added.
Another third-party candidate addressing college student concerns is Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential contender.
While the party is best known for its environmental messages, Stein also put an emphasis on free tuition for public university students in her platform.
Her goal is to “abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude,” according to her Power to the People Plan found on her campaign website.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio hopes to alleviate financial strain for college students.
“One of the central problems of our outdated higher education system is that it has become increasingly unaffordable for those who stand to benefit the most,” the Republican candidate said in a 2014 speech about higher education reform.
In his speech, and in recent press statements, Rubio has said that there needs to be a better system put into place for students suffering with loans who can’t find high-enough paying jobs with the degrees they’ve earned.
Another Republican candidate, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, has also expressed his beliefs in the need to update the country’s education system.
In an essay he co-wrote for Inside Higher Ed, an online news source for higher education, he said that he believes that in the next few years, competition will increase even more among not only domestic universities, but international ones as well, as students take more online courses.
“With thousands of universities in the United States and around the world online, students will have more choices in higher education than in any other consumer category,” Bush wrote in the essay.
On Bush’s campaign website, he said that as Florida’s governor, he had established tax-supported scholarships for tens of thousands of low-income students.
According to his campaign website, former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee said he believes the rising cost of college tuition threatens not only students and their families, but the idea of the American dream as well.
“For too many, college is where students discover mountains of debt — but not a lifelong career,” he said on his website. “We must tackle the establishment and reform our colleges and universities so they make sense for the jobs of tomorrow.”
A Democratic candidate, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, has made debt-free college education one of the main staples of his campaign.
According to O’Malley’s campaign website, O’Malley has proposed making debt-free college a reality for all in-state public colleges and universities in the next five years.
To do this, he said he believes students should be able to refinance their student loans at lower rates, schools should reduce tuition costs and the government should increase Pell grants and federal work-study programs to help low-income students.
Vermont senator and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has also been a long-time pioneer for education reform.
In May, he proposed a new bill, the College for All Act, that would use $70 billion in federal and state assistance to replace the money public universities charge students for tuition and fees.
“It is a national disgrace that hundreds of thousands of young Americans today do not go to college, not because they are unqualified, but because they cannot afford it,” Sanders said in a statement about his proposed legislation.
On her campaign website, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that one of her main goals as president would be helping students struggling with student debt.
Currently, young people are struggling with a total student debt that has surpassed $1.1 trillion, according to Clinton’s website. This has caused many students to question why they should have to pay so much for an education that makes them incur so much debt.
“Education is supposed to lift young people up, not drag them down,” Clinton said on the website. “We will—finally and forever—make college affordable and available.”
Karis Lockhart, executive director of the College Republicans at UCF, said voting is a right students should take advantage of no matter who they vote for.
“We, as college students, are the next generation to run this country, and it is important for us to be informed in what is taking place in politics,” Lockhart said. “Most of the millennials don’t realize how much of a political influence we have.”
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.