Photo credit: outsidethebeltway.com
By Janelle Clausen
College students should have many concerns: college affordability, the right to choose, access to healthcare, the environment and plenty more.
But with 17 Republicans and 5 Democrats declared, several people considering running and third party candidates all aiming for the White House, it is daunting. Where do you even begin? How do you figure out who is best?
Here is a little something to help. 2016 is not as far away as we think. Feel free to do your own research after this point, but here are some of my picks of people who could be relatively helpful to college students and millennials:
5) Joe Biden, Vice President (if he decides to run)
Okay, so he has not officially declared yet—but come on, it is Joe Biden. While he does not have a platform yet, his tenure as Vice President and voting record as a Senator show a vehement support for college education.
The Obama-Biden Plan calls for education reforms from kindergarten all the way up to college. The plan involves creating the $4,000 American Opportunity Tax Credit, which would cover two-thirds the cost of average public tuition or make community college effectively free (after 100 hours of community service). It also called for streamlining the financial aid process, allowing families to check off a box on their tax forms. In 2012, Biden also supported $500 million worth of funding to create and expand partnerships between community colleges and businesses to properly train workers.
When asked in 2007 if college education should be free, he answered “absolutely, positively, unequivocally. As president, that’s what I would push for.” More specifically, he would push to make a $3,000 tax credit available for families making $150,000, make Pell Grants available to anyone making under $50,000 and increase said grants from their then $4,300 to $6,300 plus the refundable tax credit.
But beyond education, he supported the Affordable Care Act (which allows children to stay on their parents plans until 26), strongly supported same-sex marriage, favors moving toward green energy, and laments income inequality. In terms of issues, he is largely in line with millennials.
4) Martin O’Malley (D-MD), Governor of Maryland
While not so many people know him beyond “the guy who let the riots in Baltimore happen,” he definitely has stances and a history mostly aligning with many millennials.
As we covered earlier at the Independent, O’Malley is one of the three major Democrats who has a plan to try fixing the college affordability crisis. In sum, he would freeze tuition relevant to median income (which his state did, producing some of the most stable costs in the country), allow for loan refinancing and income-based repayment. This is in addition to increasing pell grants and federal work studies programs.
But even on social issues, he has been ahead of the curve. He led Maryland toward the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2012 (even after the Archbishop of Maryland asked him not to), supported Obamacare and his state was the first to pass the DREAM Act to help children of undocumented immigrants (or “new Americans,” as he would say) get an education.
He also supports raising the minimum wage, which is $10.10 in Maryland. He is pro-choice, having earned an endorsement from NARAL (National Association for the Real of Abortion Laws) in 2010, and leans green in terms of the environment. O’Malley oversaw major renewable energy growth that put it ahead of the country. “Climate change is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is,” he said during his 2013 State of the State address. “It is physics, pure and simple.” As for drugs, he decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
3) Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady.
Clinton has been involved with politics longer than some of the Republican candidates have been alive. What has she done for college students though? How can a millionaire charging thousands to speak at universities speak about lowering costs?
As we covered earlier with the Independent, Hillary Clinton’s New College Compact would give out $175 billion in federal grants and force states to end budget cuts, keep up spending on students and work on slowing the growth of tuition. She would also make community colleges tuition free, introduce fines to the institution if graduates can not pay back their loans and allow students to use pell grants for things like housing. Like the other Democrats, she would also support the refinancing of loans at lower interest rates and cap what student debtors are forced to pay each month. Conservative (i.e. ones that do not like liberals and Democrats) outlets say the plan would not work, but at least she has an idea.
Clinton previously pushed for healthcare reform as First Lady. Now, like the Democrats, she supports Obamacare (even if it is not perfect) and even said it is time for Republicans to “move on.” She once was against same-sex marriage, but has since come out to support it. Her record with the War on Drugs and criminal justice reform is rather grotesque, but at least she is starting to consider mental and substance-abuse issues as health issues and is closely watching Colorado and Washington. As for women’s rights, she has consistently championed them throughout her life domestically and globally.
Environmentally, she is mixed. On one hand she once supported fracking and is vague about approving the Keystone XL pipeline. On the other hand, she believes in climate change, wants greener energy and supports a carbon tax.
The next candidate is not mixed at all.
2) Jill Stein (G-MA), Physician, 2012 Green Party Presidential Candidate, former Massachusetts Gubernatorial Candidate.
If anyone on here is a long shot candidate, it is Jill Stein. But she is also quite the interesting one with propositions that would make basically any Democrat blush. As she also said, unlike other Democrats that can be eliminated by the primaries, she can stay in until “the bitter end.” She is surviving solely on individual support.
The cornerstone of her 2012 presidential campaign was focused on the Green New Deal (I highly recommend reading it), mirroring FDR’s 1930s New Deal. It calls for a full employment program that’s nationally funded and locally controlled, the right to a living wage, access to a Medicare-for-All system, tuition-free college, revoking corporate personhood and restoring the Glass-Steagall Act to full force.
Attached is a Voter Bill of Rights that would make Election Day a national holiday, abolish the electoral college (every vote counts), introduce proportional voting, and make sure elections are publicly financed to curtail big money’s power in politics. In addition, she supports term limits for Congress.
On civil rights, Jill Right is strong. She was the first pro-gay marriage candidate in Massachusetts, which was the first to legalize gay marriage. Stein has openly shown support for social movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. She also supports an end to the devastating War on Drugs and the repeal of the Patriot Act. As for foreign policy, she is a lot less hawkish than the majority of candidates. Environmentally, she wants a fully green U.S. by 2030 and knows we can not wait any longer to address climate change.
How possible are the policies? I am not sure. She is further to the left of the next, and much more electable, candidate…
1) Senator Bernie Sanders (I – VT)
Where do we begin with Bernie Sanders? In political office since 1981 as a mayor, representative and senator, he has been consistent and on the right side of history multiple times. He was a civil rights activist, voted against constitutional amendments banning gay marriage in 2004 and 2006, was one of 66 members to vote against the Patriot Act and warned of the dangers of financial deregulation well before the 2008 crash. He also voted against the Iraq War and has a perfect pro-choice voting record from NARAL Pro-Choice. I could go on, but you get the point. He is actually pushing Hillary Clinton to the left.
Sanders introduced the “College for All Act” back in May, aiming to eliminate the $70 billion tuition costs and public undergraduate colleges. The federal government would pay $47 billion annually, with states covering the rest. To qualify for grants, the schools need most of their professors near or at tenure. Borrowers could refinance their loans, expand work-study programs, and eliminate the need to reapply for financial aid each year. He would pay for it with a “Robin Hood Tax” on financial transactions. If you want more info, check out our previous story. He has also advocated cutting defense by $18 billion to alleviate college costs and focusing on home before getting involved abroad.
He voted for Obamacare, but would prefer a single-payer system. Basically, it means everyone pays in and everyone has access to basic healthcare regardless of income. Rather than just supporting the legalization of marijuana, he demands an end to the costly and racially-biased drug war, as well as ending private prisons. As said before, I could go on, but I think you can see why I view him as the best choice.
Honorable Mention: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
College Republicans, this is for you. Look at how young and different he is from the Republican stereotype. While the 2016 Republican field has largely been silent or dismissive of the college affordability crisis, Rubio, who only just paid back his student loans, has proposed some things in the past.
Alongside Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), he had proposed The Dynamic Repayment Act, a bipartisan student loan bill that would connect repayments to income (unless they opted out) and allow for forgiveness of particularly high and stubborn loans after 20 and 30 years.
His current plan involves income-based repayment plans and allowing future employers to invest in their education (graduates would pay back as a percentage of income later). He has also encouraged people to pursue vocational professions (rather than a college degree) like plumbers, electricians, welders, technicians and machinists, saying that these jobs should not be stigmatized and can provide a livelihood for millions.
However, in terms of other issues, he falls a little short. Rubio is no fan of Obamacare, is pro-life, defines marriage as between a man and a woman, does not “believe there’s a responsible way to recreationally use marijuana,” and has voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act– to name a couple of things.