The morning after Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic nomination for president, her Republican opponent and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump finally revealed his thoughts on an issue now at the forefront of the Democratic platform — the cost of college.
At a Wednesday morning press conference in Doral, Fla., less than 12 hours after Clinton became the first woman in U.S. history to headline a major party ticket, Trump took a break from encouraging Russia to hack Clinton’s emails and revealed that he was working on a “great plan” to address rising levels of student loan debt.
This was the first time that the Trump campaign, known for noncommittal policy positions, publicly addressed the issue in detail.
“They can’t breathe, they’re scared, they’re so scared they have leveraged their entire life,” Trump said. “One of the saddest things I see are college students that work so hard, that go to good colleges, they’re good students.”
He added that his team would be working on the plan over the next four weeks.
Student loans have risen to the forefront of recent national debate as debt levels across the country increase with each passing year. Total student loan debt in the United States nearly tripled between 2004 and 2012, with an average increase of 14 percent annually, according to a 2014 analysis by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
In 2010, student loans surpassed credit card debt as the second-largest form of household debt in America after mortgages, the report said. Unlike other forms of debt, student loans cannot be forgiven through bankruptcy proceedings.
In an unprecedented moment of directness, Trump blamed colleges themselves for some of the rising costs of higher education. He pointed out the enormous administrators’ salaries common across many college campuses and noted that colleges can pocket large amounts of student loan funds directly from the federal government, regardless of students’ ultimate ability to actually repay the loans.
This system, Trump said, has encouraged colleges to perpetuate a cycle where they receive money from the federal government and unfairly foist the bill on their students.
“Colleges are viewing the students as just a con to it,” Trump said. “Because the colleges say what difference does it make?”
Trump did not provide any specific action items he was considering to relieve student debt, but acknowledged that his ideas likely would go against the Republican Party’s official position on higher education. The GOP’s 2016 platform, released earlier this year, explicitly states that “the federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans.”
Trump briefly mentioned student loans when he accepted the Republican nomination at last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. His acceptance speech included one sentence where he promised to help “all of our students who are drowning in debt.”
However lenient Trump’s plan will be to debt-ridden graduates, he likely will not go as far as Clinton, whose campaign is calling for free tuition at community colleges, expanded credit counseling services for graduates behind on their loan payments, and greater financial support for colleges with large minority student populations, according to the Clinton campaign’s website.
Clinton has also said she plans to pay for student loan relief by raising taxes on high-income earners. Trump has consistently called for broad tax cuts across multiple income tax brackets.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.