Education and the Election

By Tabitha Whissemore

Republicans and Democrats have released their party platforms, which include policies focused on education.

While it hasn’t been the main focus of this year’s presidential election, higher education has found a place in both the Republican and Democratic parties’ platforms.

The Republican Platform

During the Republican National Convention, delegates approved the party’s 2016 platform. The document calls for alternatives to “traditional 4-year schools” and for the federal student loan programs to be privatized.

Three policies Republicans support:

  1. Decoupling accreditation from federal financing, and empowering states to allow a wide array of accrediting and credentialing bodies to operate.
  2. Restoring private sector participation in student financing.
  3. Promoting technical institutions, online universities, life-long learning and work-based learning, and advancing affordability, innovation and transparency.

The platform also mentions free speech on campuses: “We call on state officials to preserve our public colleges, universities, and trade schools as places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerances or ‘safe zones,’ as if college students need protection from the free exchange of ideas.”

The Democratic Platform
The 2016 Democratic platform expresses the view that every American “who wants to get an education” should be able to and that finances shouldn’t be a barrier. On July 6, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton announced an expansion of her proposed New College Compact, to provide free instate tuition at public colleges and universities for students with family incomes of $85,000 or less. Her earlier plan mirrored President Obama’s America’s College Promise.

Clinton also expressed support for the year-round Pell Grant and a simplified income-based repayment plan.  The Democratic platform reflects this.

Three policies Democrats support:

  1. Free community college education.
  2. Investment in minority-serving institutions.
  3. Cutting interest rates on student loans for future undergraduates, and expanding and simplifying income-based repayment of student loans.

There’s also mention in the platform of strengthening the gainful employment rule to “ensure that for-profit schools enable students to complete their degrees and prepare them for work.”

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Tabitha Whissemore

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.