Research Assessment #5

Date: October 23, 2016

Topic: Congressional Efforts Towards Affordable College


            Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders stood behind primary debate lecterns and spoke to millennials. As Rubio sympathized with young voters by speaking about how he only recently paid off his student loans, Sanders rallied the age demographic with the pledge of free college. While neither of the two senators made their way on to the general election debate stage, they both sparked attitudes in Congress regarding this issue.

Rubio, other members of the Republican establishment, and moderate Democrats agree that reform regarding student loans is necessary. However, the Lame Duck Congress has lived up to its name in respect to this issue with little being done to create a reform effort. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, embodying the far left of Congress, have not only cried for reform; they are calling for a complete change in how American students pay for college. These two and other progressives in Congress have been pushing for debt-free, or in some cases, free college.

It is clear that there is a conversation regarding affordable college reform efforts. This signifies that senators are trying to make progress regarding political issues important to millennials. While the effort may be there, the intentions behind it may differ. Millennials, a generation with the younger end starting college applications and the older end starting families and careers, have an emotional connection to the price of college. While some senators such as Rubio have empathy towards the younger generation, the majority of Congress has no personal reason to worry about paying for college. With this age discrepancy separating the voters and the legislators, a great division regarding how millennials and Congressmen approach college affordability exists. I believe that millennials have emotional and personal arguments, compared to their representatives who are trying to apply a pragmatic paradigm to the issue. I believe this has led youthful voters to become disenfranchised with the government, as they believe that ‘The Hill’ does not care about their needs.

Senator Lamar Alexander showcased this insincerity when he compared crippling national student loan debt to car loan debt. In my opinion, he, as well as the vast majority of ‘The Hill’ are approaching college affordability reform with a business mindset. They believe that refinancing student loans and determining the price of public college should be in favor of the business of universities. For-profit and non-for-profit colleges both need to make money for facilities and multiple other reasons. I believe that this business-mindset has only widened the discrepancy between millennials and Congress. Like all businesses, senators believe that this money should not be funded solely by the American taxpayer. While I see this as a valid perspective, it widely differs from that of millennials’.

Students on the opposing side perceive the issue with a different mindset. When millennials discuss college affordability, very few are worried about the effects on the American taxpayer. I believe that millennials see college as a right; they are entitled to higher education to ensure their place in the modern workforce. Holding this belief, it would only make sense for the government to fully sponsor public universities, in their opinion.

After listening to my generation speak with this attitude, I have come to understand that reform efforts in Congress will not meet the expectations of millennials. With the Senate’s expected reform regarding the financing of student loans, changes are on the horizon. However, with the business-outlook guiding legislation, tuition will continue to be costly perpetuating millennial frustrations.

MLA Citation:

Grasgreen, Allie. “Warren Shames Both Parties on College Affordability.” POLITICO. N.p., 10

June 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.