This piece appeared in the Nov. 2 Election Special Edition. View more from that edition.


While Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump offers minimal detail on his ideas about college affordability and debt, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is quite specific on what she would do to assist college students. Still, both candidates are vague about how they would fund their plans.

I interviewed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on July 25 and asked him what he would do as president to address concerns of college students.

“We’re gonna come out with a plan,” Trump said in the interview. “We’re going to help these young people that are choking with college debt, and they’re also choking with something else. They graduate and they can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs. It’s a big issue. We’re going to take care of that issue.”

He told me he would come out with a plan in four weeks. He did not. Instead, he spoke in early September about the importance of school choice. Since then, he has rolled out a brief position on his website that offers little information for what he would do.

His position states he would offer $20 billion toward school choice with the money coming from “reprioritizing existing federal dollars.” On the issue of tuition and affordability at the collegiate level, Trump’s proposal says he would “work with Congress on reforms to ensure universities are making a good faith effort to reduce the cost of college and student debt in exchange for the federal tax breaks and tax dollars.”

After interviewing Trump and looking through his website and footage from past rallies, it is clear he has articulated the bare minimum when it comes to helping college students.

For Hillary Clinton, education should be a major issue she addresses. Seeking to attract former Bernie Sanders supporters, she teamed up with him in New Hampshire Sept. 28 to discuss her plan for free tuition at public colleges and universities by 2021 for students with family household incomes of $125,000 or less.

Her plan also includes free community college tuition and a $25 billion fund to support historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions and other minority-serving institutions.

Clinton’s plan tackles the issue of student debt by allowing loan forgiveness for people willing to go into public or national service and providing opportunities for people to refinance their loans. Her website includes a college calculator tool so young voters can explore how her plan would affect them financially.

“It is absolutely outrageous that you cannot refinance student debt,” Clinton said in New Hampshire. “It is even worse that you’re being charged interest rates that are so much higher than anything that anybody else is paying to buy a house, to buy a car, to borrow money for a business.”

Though her site offers specifics on the plan itself and the ways in which she would support college students, it offers little information about how her plan would be financed.

“This plan will be fully paid for by limiting certain tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers,” her site states.