The push for “debt-free college” began only last fall. But, politically, this meme has everything: It’s an earnest response to a genuine policy problem, the rise in student debt loads. It captures the dreams and anxieties of millennial voters and their families. And it touches on the wrenching changes underway in a vital American industry — higher ed.
Late last year, a paper from the think tank Demos outlined how more federal support for state universities could allow students, or at least those with modest part-time jobs, to graduate without debt.
In 2015, the average student borrower is graduating with about $35,000 worth of debt. Paid over the course of 10 or more years, the cost of repayment will include several thousand dollars more to pay off the interest that accumulates on the loan.
Nine dollars an hour, by the way, is still poverty wages. On that wage, if an employee were working 40 hours per week every week of the year they would make just under $19,000 per year -- still below poverty.
Warren has led the charge in promoting college affordability as a major issue in the 2016 presidential race, calling for the elimination of student debt at public colleges. That debt-free college initiative, the brainchild of liberal think tank Demos, has been endorsed by Democratic contenders Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Students have turned to loans to keep up with the price hikes. The class of 2015 has the most debt in U.S. history, with each student graduating with an average of $35,051 in loans. The national total recently reached an all-time high of $1.2 trillion.
Some community-college students don't get support from their families, while others had subpar high-school educations and have to play catch-up right away. In fact, a 2010 study by the public-policy organization Demos found that six out of 10 students entering community colleges have to take remedial courses to compensate for the skills and knowledge they never attained in high school.
While Latinos acquire slightly less student-loan debt than their white counterparts, on average $49,700 as opposed to $54,000, this does not mean that they are in any better position when – or if – they finish school. Many Latinos opt to work through college instead of taking on a large debt burden, Maldonado said, and that leads to a longer amount of time spent in school and a lower chance of actually graduating.
According to statistics from the public policy organization Demos, 31 percent of Latino students drop out of college.
According to Demos, a public policy organization, voter turnout is on average 10 percentage points higher in states that allow same-day voter registration.
"Every year, my Elections Division receives phone calls from citizens who missed the deadline but are otherwise completely eligible to vote," said Secretary of State Jim Condos. "Whether someone has just moved into town, or simply forgot to register because life is busy, every eligible voter should be encouraged to participate – no eligible voter should be denied the opportunity to vote.
The push for debt-free college began last September, when Demos, a liberal think tank, issued a plan that would make college debt-free for low- and middle-income families in some states, at a cost of around $30 billion. Four months later the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, or PCCC, began a campaign to press the Democratic candidates to back the idea.