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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Winning the student vote

Pa. Senate candidates take on college affordability

Pushing past the debris of the 2016 presidential election, voters find a plethora of issues being discussed on congressional, gubernatorial, and senatorial campaigns. In Pennsylvania, voters will be partaking in a very important Senate race between Republican incumbent Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty, ’85.

At Saint Joseph’s University, like on many other campuses, it can be difficult to relay the importance of national and international issues to college students. However, there is one issue, that frequently crosses the minds of many—if not most—St. Joe’s students: college affordability.

Young voters are increasingly becoming more important in this election. Both candidates have made comments and statements in regard to making college more affordable and student loans more reasonable.

The Hawk asked both candidates to comment on this topic. McGinty accepted a request for an interview, while Toomey declined our request for an interview, instead pointing us to his website.

Toomey’s website highlighted his six years of experience in the Senate and his accomplishments as junior United States Senator in Pennsylvania.

McGinty, although she has never held public office, expressed in her interview with The Hawk that she has new ideas that she plans to propose if elected.

“Well what I want to do is one put a lid on the cost of college that taxpayers are helping to pay for, but then extend the middle class tax credits and the Pell Grants so that families can afford that core cost of education,” McGinty said.

According to McGinty, the key is to tie financial incentives to the schools that are doing the best job of containing costs.

As Toomey’s website indicates, he voted in favor of the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013. This legislation established interest rates for new loans made on or after July of 2013.

Toomey also joined a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Perkins Loan Program, which is a program that offers financial aid to qualified low-income students.

The college affordability plans that the Pennsylvania Senate candidates proposed are not exclusive to Pennsylvania. They can be found all across the country, in Senate and House races and even in the presidential election. Many voters have been questioning the authenticity of these plans, and if elected, whether or not the candidates can truly make a difference in college affordability.

Laura Crispin, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics at St. Joe’s, examined the different candidates’ ideas on college affordability.

“Making community college free is a very interesting idea as a first step,” Crispin said. “Imagine paying $200 per credit at a community college—you are not paying for room and board. Imagine doing that for two years and having all your credits transferred to somewhere like St. Joe’s. How much money would you save? That is insanely cheap—so cheap.”

Crispin noted that many solutions may seem feasible on paper, but when either candidate attempts to implement the plan, they may find that these solutions are not as possible as once presumed.

“I think that it [free community college] is a very intriguing idea and would be a lot more affordable as a starting point to making four year public institutions free,” she added.

Regardless of the candidates’ respective positions on college affordability, the campaigns will need to mobilize the youth vote if they want take on Capitol Hill after Nov. 8. By discussing the important issues, particularly ones most impactful to college students, ideas like college affordability engage young voters.

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