Priority and Affordability in Higher Education

Education, an issue that affects every person in America, is one of the least talked about issues in the 2016 presidential race. While ignoring education may be short-sighted, it comes as no surprise. According to the March 2-6 Gallup poll, only 4 percent of Americans consider education the nation's most important problem.  The economy and unemployment topped the list at 28 percent and dissatisfaction with government came in second at 15 percent.   At least 5 percent of Americans mention several other issues including immigration, healthcare, race relations, terrorism, the election and the federal budget deficit.  Education did not even hit the 5 percent mark. 

College affordability has been the education topic discussed the most by the 2016 presidential candidates.  Their plans range from drastically reducing or eliminating tuition, making public colleges and universities free, refinancing college loan debt, encouraging colleges to reduce their costs, to abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability is a huge issue. There is no question that state funding cuts for public higher education has led to increased tuition rates and staggering levels of student debt. 

  • Almost two-thirds of recent college graduates had to take out student loans, with a median debt burden of $30,000 among those who took out loans.
  • Student loan debt is now higher than credit card and auto loan debt and is second only to mortgage loan debt.

The question that does remain – will funding higher education become a priority given the limited growth in state revenues and the competition from other state budget items.