DURHAM — Four presidential candidates at the University of New Hampshire Thursday talked about college costs and the estimated $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loan debt.
“It’s crushing the hopes of a future generation,” entrepreneur Andrew Yang said. “Would you rather young people, no offense to you all, live in your parent’s basements paying off debt loans for forever or going out there, buying homes and starting families?”
Yang, a Democrat who is supportive of career and technical training programs, said part of the problem is that “too many kids are getting the message that it is college or nothing.”
Democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, is a former Denver public school system superintendent.
He also supports career and technical programs as well as year-round Pell Grants for college students.
“Our education system is actually reinforcing the income inequality we have as a country because the vast predictor of the quality of a kid’s education, and how far they go with their education, is their parents’ income,” Bennet said.
Republican Bill Weld is running against President Donald Trump in the GOP primaries. The former Massachusetts governor said his own family has been affected by college loan debt and it must become negotiable so millennials can succeed.
“We really don’t want people to be indentured servants until they are 40 years old by having this student debt. So, I think after a certain period of time, a short period of time, say three years, interest could be forgiven until the student has a job that will pay at least 250 times the federal poverty level,” Weld said.
Democrat Deval Patrick, who served as the governor of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2015, said he believes Americans should have access to a first-rate education.
“My view is that every dollar the public spends on education, pre-K through higher ed, is the single best buck the public spends on our collective future,” Patrick said. “In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, the investment of time and ideas and money in education, up to and including public higher ed, is critical; otherwise we keep disadvantaging our future.”
Democrat Tulsi Gabbard was scheduled to speak at the event, but did not appear.
Prior to speeches by the presidential candidates, there was a panel discussion with James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access & Success; Daniella Gibbs Leger, executive vice president for the Center for American Progress Action Fund; and Adam Harris, staff writer for “The Atlantic.”
Harris asked questions of each candidate as he moderated the event.
The Carsey School partnered with UNH’s Campus Living Association and The Institute for College Access & Success for Thursday’s event.