Poll shows Americans want affordable tuition

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Photo Credit: Lillian Michel | Daily Texan Staff

New America, a think tank in Washington D.C., conducted a survey of 800 Democrats, Republicans and Independents which showed Americans believe higher education is “necessary but expensive.” Sixty-eight percent of respondents agreed the government couldn’t afford to provide free tuition at public colleges right now.

Professional interviewers conducted the survey from Sept. 20–Oct. 3. All respondents were assumed to be prospective voters in the upcoming presidential election. 

Giorgia Shields, a women’s and gender studies graduate student, said the federal government needs to make college more affordable because working today while in school can’t cover the cost of tuition. Shields said Clinton’s college plan is a step in the right direction.

“[Making college affordable] is necessary to the continuation of the United States as any kind of successful nation,” Shields said.

Michaela Lavelle, psychology freshman, said raising taxes to fund tuition costs is necessary.

“I think because the bachelor’s degree is currently slightly obsolete as far as getting a job goes, that college should be more affordable because [for] the majority you need a higher degree than that,” Lavelle said. “By raising taxes [to fund the plan] you are investing in the future of America.”

No matter their political ideology, 85 percent of respondents to the survey believed it was getting harder for students to afford college tuition, and 70 percent believed students should have the opportunity to go to college debt-free.

The affordability of college is something both the Democratic and Republican Parties have addressed during the current presidential race. Clinton released and outline of her plan over the summer. Trump has yet to release a detailed plan, although he has made comments at rallies addressing the need for reform of the federal loan repayment program.

The main talking point of Clinton’s higher education plan is to provide free tuition for families who make under $85,000 in 2017 and by 2021 the threshold to qualify for free tuition will rise to $125,000. According to Clinton’s website, the plan will cover over 80 percent of American families.

Sixty-four percent of respondents were in favor of providing free-tuition for students whose household-incomes is less than $125,000.

College Republicans President Robert Guerra said both plans are too ambiguous as of right now to know if they will be affordable, but said he thought Clinton’s plan would increase the federal deficit.

“As far as covering 80 percent of college tuition in full I have no idea what the costs of that would be,” Guerra said. “Given the current state of the deficit, the government needs to engaging in practices that lower expenses.” 

Eighty-seven percent of the total survey respondents thought students should be able to pay back their loans on a monthly basis with an affordable percentage of their income. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on comments Trump made on higher education at a rally on Oct. 13 where he stated he would cap repayment plans at 12.5 percent of a person’s income per month and forgive debt after 15 years of income-based payment. Under the Obama Administration, income-based repayment is capped at 10 percent with debt-forgiveness after 20 years. 

Public relations junior Joseph Trahan, University Democrats communications director, said Clinton’s college plan targets taxing the wealthiest of Americans and is an important step in funding programs that benefit the vast majority of Americans.