OpinionOn the Campaign Trail

Colorado Dispatch: Why Hillary Clinton Is Right to Focus on Student Debt

By Crisanta Duran | September 15, 2015

Photo by Getty Images: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton discusses college affordability and student debt relief at a town hall meeting at Exeter High School August 10, 2015 in Exeter, New Hampshire.
Rep. Crisanta Duran is the majority leader of the Colorado House of Representatives.
Our students need help. And Colorado students are no exception. The average Colorado graduate leaves college with over $24,000 in student loan debt. This crushing burden has consequences that stretch far beyond the students themselves. As these young people seek entry-level jobs, their student loan debts make them less likely to buy a home, contribute to the local economy, or start a family. Over time, America’s more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt will have a deeply corrosive effect on our economy and our shared future.

As the stock market wobbles, we can’t afford to short-circuit our middle-class economic engine. Nor should we blame students for seeking to improve themselves through education. Instead, we have to radically rethink how we approach college affordability—and we must guarantee that access to quality higher education isn’t a luxury for the rich alone.

Here in Colorado, we’re already taking steps to tackle this challenge. Several pieces of legislation passed last session as part of this state’s Ready to Work package expanded professional and academic opportunities for young people seeking to enter the workforce without taking on a crushing financial burden in the process. But Colorado can’t tackle this challenge alone.

The 2016 presidential election is a can’t-miss opportunity to put this issue at the center of the national debate. Fortunately, Hillary Clinton has stepped up to the plate. Her comprehensive college affordability plan, released earlier this month, would move mountains for Colorado’s former, current and future students—as well as for those all around the country.

Called the New College Compact, Clinton’s plan would tackle the cost crisis at both ends—with policies that both make college less expensive in the first place and that make loan repayment more affordable as young graduates get on their feet. Under Clinton’s plan, tomorrow’s college students will never need to rely on student loans to afford their tuition, and those who graduate with debt will never face repayment costs that exceed 10 percent of their salary.

I believe Clinton’s plan is the one America needs to tackle this burgeoning crisis, head-on, but I also understand that others may disagree, preferring other plans. That’s what America’s all about! But surely what we can all agree on is that it is unacceptable to simply ignore the challenge of college affordability, especially when its consequences are so glaringly obvious here in Colorado and across the country.

With some politicians around the country refusing to even acknowledge this issue, we need a leader like Hillary Clinton who can bring together a broad coalition to achieve real reform.

After all, on an issue as important as this one, America deserves better than politicians who refuse to tackle the big issues. Our students need help, and Hillary Clinton has put together the strongest college affordability proposal of a presidential frontrunner in history. I hope that more leaders across the country, and particularly in Congress, follow her lead.

Photo by Getty Images: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton discusses college affordability and student debt relief at a town hall meeting at Exeter High School August 10, 2015 in Exeter, New Hampshire.

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