October 24, 2017

Higher Education and the Democratic Debate

Note:  Three pages

Through a word search of the full transcripts of the December 19 Democratic debate, here are all substantive mentions of the terms “college,” “education,” or “higher education.”  (Note that for brevity, some tangential comments have been removed.  See the full transcript of the debate for additional context.)

Also see “Higher Education and the (Dec. 15) Republican Debates


Question:  We want to turn to the American jobs, wages and raises in this country.  We want to start with this eye-opening number:  In 1995, the median American household income was $52,600 in today’s money. This year, it’s $53,600. That’s 20 more years on the job with just a 2 percent raise. In a similar time-frame, raises for CEOs went up more than 200 percent.  You’ve all said, “you would raise the minimum wage.” But Senator Sanders what else – speak to that household tonight. 20 years, just a 2 percent raise, how as president would you get them a raise right away?

Sanders:  In a competitive global economy, it is imperative that we have the best educated workforce in the world. That is why I’m going to have a tax on Wall Street speculation to make certain that public colleges and universities in America are tuition free.

O’Malley:  All through the recession, [Maryland] defended the highest median income in America and the second highest median income for African American families. How? By actually doing more for education. We increased education funding by 37 percent.  We were the only state in American that went four years in a row without a penny increase in college tuition.

Clinton:  At the center of my economic policy is raising incomes, because people haven’t been able to get ahead, and the cost of everything, from college tuition to prescription drugs, has gone up . . . And there is a lot we can do in college affordability. I have debt-free tuition plans, free community college plans, getting student debt down.


Question:  As you know, this auditorium is filled with many Saint Anselm college students. They know the outstanding student debt right now in America is $1.3 trillion. That private education costs have gone up in the last decade 26 percent, and 40 percent for public education. So knowing that, we know you want to make public education more affordable but how do you really lower the cost? Senator Sanders, you mentioned a few minutes ago that you want free tuition for public colleges. How does that really lower the cost other than just shifting the cost to taxpayers?

Sanders:  I think we’ve got to work on a two-pronged approach. And your point is absolutely well taken. The cost of college education is escalating a lot faster than the cost of inflation. There are a lot of factors involved in that. And that is that we have some colleges and universities that are spending a huge amount of money on fancy dormitories and on giant football stadiums. Maybe we should focus on quality education with well-paid faculty members. And I understand in many universities [there are]a heck of a lot of vice presidents who earn a big salary. But, bottom line is this is the year 2015. If we are going to be competitive in the global economy we need the best educated workforce.

It is insane to my mind, hundreds of thousands of young people today, bright qualified people, cannot go to college because they cannot afford — their families cannot afford to send them. Millions coming out of school as you indicated, deeply in debt. What do we do? My proposal is to put a speculation tax on wall street, raise very substantial sums of money, not only make public colleges and universities tuition-free, but also substantially lower interest rates on student debt. You have families out there paying 6 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent on student debt, refinance their homes at 3 percent. What sense is that? So I think we need radical changes in the funding of higher education. We should look at college today the way high school was looked at 60 years ago. All young people who have the ability should be able to get a college education.

O’Malley:  This one falls under the category of, I have actually done this. As a governor we actually made the greater investments so that we could go four years in a row without a penny’s increase to college tuition.

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