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My Turn: The issue of student debt causes a young Republican to lose faith in the party



For the last two years, it has been my mission to recruit millennials into the fold of the Republican Party. Talking to young voters, educating my classmates and motivating them to get involved was an incredibly rewarding experience as chairman of the New Hampshire Federation of College Republicans. However, if these same students and recent graduates desire to have their voices heard and their interests fought for, they would be well-advised to vote Democrat this November.

After many months of reflection, I have come to realize that the Republican Party has failed to see the big picture on issues that matter most to my generation, particularly in regards to the crushing student loan debt that burdens our lives. The dire consequences of this crisis are felt far more personally than most issues today, and as such, I am compelled to advocate for leaders and policies that will address this problem head-on.

As a recent undergraduate student in New Hampshire, I know firsthand just how difficult it is to succeed as a young American, especially when it is estimated that a whopping 74 percent of New Hampshire students – myself included – leave college with an average student loan debt of $33,000 – the second-highest average in the nation.

As a result, we are putting major life decisions on hold, and struggle every day to have faith in the dreams that led us to pursue higher education in the first place. Even for those of us who have found work, our ability to contribute to the economy is crippled, and for many of us, the financial stability of our own families is at risk.

This kind of oppression must not be tolerated. Millennials and middle-class families deserve immediate and effective solutions to this crisis.

The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, is a prime example of how leaders from the Democratic Party are leading the way on this issue. If passed, the bill would allow students and families to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, ultimately saving them thousands of dollars along the way.

Refinancing homes and cars has long been a successful way for middle-class families to improve their economic conditions and alleviate the financial difficulties they face. Granting recent graduates this chance would likewise give young Americans the opportunity they need to thrive.

In fact, more than 125,000 students in New Hampshire alone would be affected by this legislation. With more money in their pockets and more control over their lives, this positive change would help ignite our state’s economy.

Unfortunately for us, however, Republicans in the U.S. Senate recently blocked the Bank on Students bill. Their approach to this issue is one that simply fails to address the immediate and pressing nature of this crisis.

In the past, GOP leaders have advocated for the government to play a lesser role, if any, in regards to higher education, often pointing instead to the problematic rising cost of tuition.

To be sure, the high cost of college has indeed helped to produce the staggering student loan debt we see today.

But when it comes to actually combatting this trend in New Hampshire, Democratic leadership is once again leading the way.

Gov. Maggie Hassan and our Democratic representatives in Concord restored funding to New Hampshire’s higher education system, resulting in the first in-state tuition freeze in 25 years.

In addition, low-income students are now receiving scholarships to attend college.

Just recently, the Community College System of New Hampshire announced that tuition rates at all seven of their colleges would be lowered for this coming school year.

Today, a college education in the Granite State is more affordable and more accessible to all who desire a fair chance to succeed.

Leaders like Shaheen and Hassan continually prove that they are deeply invested in the future of millennials. Their investment in students is ultimately an investment in the future of our state and our country.

Funding public higher education, supporting Pell Grants and advocating for legislation like the Bank on Students bill are just a few of many ways in which their actions have improved the lives of countless young Americans. The debate over student loan debt in this country has made one thing abundantly clear: when millennials speak, Democrats listen. Even as my generation reels from crushing debt, their resolve to find solutions to this crisis only continues to grow.

After all, it has been said that millennials are in fact optimistic and upbeat about their future. Therefore, we owe it to ourselves to support leaders who are dedicated to solving the problems that restrain our true and full potential.

As students begin another school year, it is my hope that young voters across New Hampshire will judge candidates not just for the ads they run or the words they say, but for the actions each candidate has taken to positively and directly impact their lives.

Once they do, they’ll find that supporting Democrats this November is by far the right choice to make.

(Jake Wagner attended St. Anselm College and was chairman of the New Hampshire Federation of College Republicans from 2012 to 2014. He lives in Manchester.)

Legacy Comments49

Unfortunately the biggest problem with the cost of higher education is the student loan program itself. While with lofty goals of making an education affordable, it has had the opposite effect on education costs. All one has to do is compare the timeline of tuition increases to the availability of student loan programs. As loans became readily available so did the ability of schools to jack up tuition. The tuition at todays schools are set by the availability of federal loans. This like everything else in this country seems to boil down to politics, and politics always boils down to money. The system is in dire need of revamping but it will be truly an unpleasant process. The intent of the student loan programs was admirable, the implementation simply enabled the universities to milk the system to their advantage. So the problem is really just a case of finding a way to milk Uncle Sam for tax $$$ under the guise of making an education available to those that originally could not have afforded it. The $30K tuition is really no different than the $1000. hammer or toilet seat, different industry same greed. So blame the unions or the liberals. But know this, it's human nature that is the real problem not political party.

that analysis by GCarson is transferrable to 100% of every massive federal govt program the liberals love.

Go back and read the last line of CS's post, BPR.

What is sad about this entire thing is that the author implies he graduated from Saint Anselm. Not true. Those of us who were able to finish our degree ( going to class, doing the homework, and not skipping out to binge watch Netflix) are not only able to pay off our student loans but we do so with the knowledge that the four years spent on the hilltop made us better citizens of the world. Its not only pathetic to imply he graduated from college, but disrespectful to Saint Anselm alums who work hard. College loans were made with the understanding that a student would graduate college, not drop out.

When you can't refute the argument, attack the writer. Yup, yup.

"If any other business set prices like universities, they'd be charged with felonies."

Jake, it is not the fault of Republicans that there is a student loan debt crisis. My daughter has $20,000 to pay back as well and is struggling to find jobs. A couple of things are affecting all college graduates ability to find a good paying job and to utilize their skills. When I graduated from college 35 years ago, tuition and room and board were $3000 yearly. My dad earned $30,000 so that was about 10% of his annual income. Today, that same school is $18,000 and if I had a student there, it would be over 20% of my annual income. If I had a student at UNH it would be almost 30% of my income. At Tufts, it would be 40% of my income. Colleges are to blame. When a school like UNH pays $150,000 to have a logo designed or have a professor on paid sabbatical or teaching one class with adjunct professors carrying the load, it costs more, much more. When the hockey coach is paid more than the governor of New Hampshire, it costs you more. The math is simple. The second dilemma is that there are fewer jobs for graduates because everyone and their brother has a Bachelor's degree. When I graduated, 19% of the population had a Bachelors degree and all degrees total were just 34% of the population. Today, 32% have a Bachelors degree and if you add up all Bachelor, Masters, Associates and Doctorate degrees it adds up to about 73%. Yet there are not enough jobs to fill all of those qualifications. When I graduated, there were still mills in operation, the military had a higher enlistment and trades and manufacturing were still major industries and our exports were booming. Not so today. We live in a service economy with tech at the center of our economic growth. Democrats have an anti-business agenda brewing and they have spent us into oblivion. When government funds something, it has to come from somewhere and it comes from taxes. People have less to spend, it hurts the economy. Companies pay the highest corporate tax rates in the world in the United States so to make up for it, they hire less workers. I know at your young age that you probably do not realize all of this but to blame it on Republicans is being uninformed about history and the truth. A college degree is a piece of paper and it is only good if the person holding the paper has the innate skills to be able to make the most of what they learned. If you want to reduce college debt, the best way is a robust, fiscally responsible state college system (not the one we have now) which offers in state students an opportunity to have the right of first refusal to attend. Then allow in out of state students.

I read the letter again. He's not blaming Republicans for the current situation. He's just saying that Republicans have not shown that they recognize the problem, and are doing nothing to make a difference in the situation for his generation.

who caused the problem in the 1st place - DEMOCRATS !!!!!!!! - sheeeeesh

What have Democrats and Obama done to make a difference in the situation? Answer: they made is worse. Being in bed with the unions and the education lobby has not lowered overall college costs.

You two are masters of reading whatever you want in people's posts. I did not take a position here. All I did was give you my interpretation of what the writer was saying. I have neither blamed nor defended either party, and yet you attack me because you think I have done so? I think a chill pill is warranted here.

I see that perhaps I have just done what I accuse BPR and Itsa of. It is possible you are not attacking me, but are instead responding to the original writer. Regardless.... your points are off-point. He's not talking about Democrats, he's talking about his experience with Republicans. Let's say that the democrats DID cause the problem - the writer still has a right to be disillusioned with his party if they have not responsed to the problem in any meaningful way. write a bit that ALMOST has me thinking that you might have some intelligence, then you get into ranting. IF you have some intelligence, read the Lewis Powell Memo (google it). The memo is from 1971 to the US Chamber of Commerce, and is a bit long. AFTER you read it, think about what the National Republican Party has done, and where it has gotten its support. And, think about the superpacs and how SCOTUS has supported them. Then, you might thrust out your chest a bit and think how well off you are OR you might think how your party has become controlled by rich corporations and how they want to control the federal government-of course, for their benefit and NOT the benefit of the middle class (i.e. those with less than $75,000 income per year.).

Yeah, I know about the Lewis Powell memo, such a conspiracy. About that intelligence, well my IQ is over 140. I will match my intellect with yours any day.

Too bad that with your IQ, you never learned to think. PS-mine is a little higher than yours, but I tend to read and think alot.

gibberish in - gibberish out. a knowledgable man knows a tomato is a fruit - a smart man knows not to put into a fruit salad.

Oh Wally, I am well read but I don't read the writings of ideologues and I don't think (as you do) that I am high minded and am IKE. I guess that I have just worked hard my whole life, unlike public servants and have not had as much downtime to, for instance, "think" as deeply as you do. Of course you have 12-13 years on me, so I can catch up.

You will never catch up. Your thinking is already warped, I can tell by the way you write. Looking into things is not your style-you wouldn't want facts to interfere with your opinions !

Wally, I think that you need to stick to the single tasking state employee mentality, I doubt that you have a Phd. in psychology. I look into plenty of things but I can see ideological slant in what I read. Progressives are about emotions and ideology and agenda. Conservatives are about tradition, individual liberty and people taking responsibility for their own actions. Take it easy and enjoy the cherry cheesecake!

Jake...You have definitely learned what colleges & universities want you to: to learn to think for yourself. Weigh the facts and figures, pros and cons, and make decisions on what is best for you in your situation. I'm delighted that you have come to see what the Republicans are: the party FOR big business (corporations and Wall Street, etc) and NOT for the middle class. As most of us are part of the middle class, we have recognized that because the National Republican Party (and their supporters like the US Chamber of Commerce, etc) have done NOTHING for the middle class. Result: the average income now is the same as it was in 1980. And, please note: although the Republicans scream that they are against all taxes, that translates into underfunding infrastructure AND education. The rich will always be able to AFFORD the best universities, even though their kids won't pass the entrance exams.

Jake, Thank you for your thoughtful letter. While there are many more issues than college funding that should determine your political party affiliation, we each have our turning point. Keep your eyes and mind open and follow your own beliefs regardless of what others say. It's a shame how so many from the party you previously represented are attacking you for this letter and taking it as an opportunity to turn the blame onto the democrats. We got here because society (both left and right) allowed. Both sides have had their chances to address it, but must work together to get it done. Left unchecked, expenses will grow to what the market will bear, which will be well beyond a large fraction of our population. Thanks to a lack of political will to work together on much of anything, and because there are many are profiting from the current system (with money to spend on lobbying), I don't expect much to change in the near term. You are right to raise the point and increase political action to work on the matter.

Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have never shown a proclivity to reach across the aisle. You don't ask to work in unison with another party by setting the agenda and only offering your own personal solution to any problem; refusing to discuss changing your plan. No one is attacking Jake but so much is left unsaid from professors hardly teaching to logo design at UNH to salaries to sabbaticals. Higher education has become a self protected industry which prays on emotions and the workplace has fallen for the dogma that college educated folks are smarter, better prepared, etc. College gives you what you put into it. If we all milked cows, had a bucket, some of us would have a full pail of milk, some would just sit there and some would have a half pail. The drive, ambition and will of the individual determines success. A college degree, for the most part (in non-technical, scientific fields) is little more than an expensive piece of paper, requyred to get a good job.

So, with your 'expensive piece of paper', how come you failed so miserably??

Which piece? The Bachelors, Masters or Phd? I don't call a career as a state hack a successful career. obviously weren't an economics major. So, the Federal Gov gives easy money to anyone who asks for it (regardless of the ability to pay it off), you take the loans willingly (knowing the interest rates in advance, since they force you to actually sign an evil thing called a promissory note), you graduate (in who knows what field), can't find a job, then cry about Republicans? First of all, the cost of college is a problematic bubble, caused mainly by the fact that anyone can get a loan to pay for it. Look up supply and demand when you get a chance. Also, observe the obscene building and infrastructure projects taking place on nearly every college and university in the US (which your high tuition happily pays for). This whole meme about Republican "oppression" and being insensitive to people's needs is a bunch of bunk and you know it. Or, maybe you just fell into the Democrat Stockholm Syndrome trap, where you bond with the one who is hurting you. Time to grow up Jake. You've got loans to pay off.

Since 1982, the cost of a college education has gone up 439%. That is 4 times the rate of inflation and twice the cost of health care. UNH is ranked 97 out of 117 of the best State Colleges in the US. They are ranked #3 in cost though. The questions that should be asked are why does it cost so much to go to UNH? And why would folks pay that cost for a school that is ranked 97? Many of my friend's kids are finding it less expensive to go out of state to attend college, even with the out of state fee.

New Hampshire is #3 because we are controlled by the 'conservatives' who would hate to part with one dollar to help fund our university system. No pride in NH, only in not having taxes.

Waldo, when are you going to address professors teaching one class with adjuncts carrying the load or $150,000 logo being sourced out when students could have had the experience of creating that. Or the hockey coach earning more than the governor. Waste, abuse, sabbaticals? Why can't progressives understand that MONEY does necessarily improve education, it is how it is spent and managed that can make the impact. Progressives don't care about spending money as most don't have alot working in government, they want others to pony up.

NH is #3 because of wasteful spending. Check out where the money goes in regards to our State Colleges Now Walter, maybe you can explain to me why UNH is ranked #97.

If you were truly a Republican, you would be out working off your debt instead of looking to the Government to solve your problems. If you want to be a member of a party that "gives you things" and places you on a morphine fed socialized existence, please vote Democrat. If you believe we are created equal but are not all guaranteed an equal outcome, then vote Republican. Please make your choice and stop whining and get to work...

It seems republicans are perfectly capable at questioning the system which is what the author is doing. If you want to see real whining, read the responses his letter has gotten from "true republicans".

I believe the previous two comments here illustrate your point perfectly, Jake. As with so many issues, when it comes down to real people with real needs that it would benefit everyone to address, Republicans come up short. They simply cannot admit that sometimes it is worthwhile for us to act together for the greater good, using government as a vehicle. I admire your courage in calling out Republicans on this issue. It is not easy to break away like that. Thank you.

Poll: 53% of Democrats approve of socialism, Lucky 's comment tells you what side she is on.

Yep -- on the side of Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, public education, the Interstate Highway system and so much more. Most people in America happily benefit from so-called "socialist" activities. What's YOUR problem?

silly girl - social security is an annuity - you even know what you are talking about - LIDV's .....sheeeeesh

BPR - you picked one thing out of the list that Lucky made a mistake about, but ignore the rest of the list. May I also add - police and fire service, public libraries, development of polio and other vaccines, national and state parks, road & highway maintenance, and, drumroll please... protection by state and national military. Bascally.... civilization.

You too have just shown that you haven't a clue. Time to go back to school - start with Political Science 101

bprYou can call it what you want, but it is SOCIALism because everyone has to pay into it, just like Medicare. I am constantly taken aback by how uniformed you are. Guess that makes you a LIRV.

Social Security is undeniably, by virtue of its function, a flexible premium deferred annuity – and annuities have for centuries been clearly recognized as insurance vehicles. you and the rest of the LIDV's show your complete and utter ignorance every day - keep coming back..... you make easier our jobs to show the readers what they should be afraid of becoming

If you check into Social Security you will find that it redistributes the contributions to give higher benefits toward the lower-earning workers. " Social Security is a government retirement program. If the government allowed you to take the money and invest it however you wanted, that would be private and capitalistic. Instead the govt. takes charge of that money and invests it for us. That is the meaning of socialism. We also have socialized police and fire protection, roads and bridges, public health (like vaccination of children, protection from epidemics, food and drug laws, etc.) " That's why people like George Bush and your own namesake, Ronald Reagan, wanted to privatize it. I stand by my original "silly" statement.

WOW - you are so wrong you are beyond help.

Two points missing from every student debt debate. First, Obama pushed a bill to remove local control from student loan service. Instead of groups like the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation being able to write loans, all loans go through a central, federal bank. (his gift to the 'wall street fat cats' he pretended to run against) Second, nobody is talking about the actual cost of higher education. When the state cut funding, the universities cut everything except professor's salaries. Does everyone understand that they carry an average course load of 2 classes per semester? A month off in the winter, plus 2 months off in the summer! Who gets that sort of work-life? When the 2nd great depression hit, companies let go many, and required those remaining to work a lot more. Private industry average is 50+ hours a week, and many are not taking vacation. Make professors teach 4 classes a term, plus 1 in the summer. Cut administration and sports. Make everyone share the sacrifice!

Mr. Wagner, you must have missed your economics class. If you can't get a job that will let you repay $33,000 of student debt at market interest rates, then you shouldn't have gone to college. Job training programs may have been the better choice for you. really don't know what education is all about ! Students borrow money to pay college tuition so they can learn. The possibility of employment has nothing to do with education. Hopefully, a college diploma can get the student a good paying job, but nothing is guaranteed. What has become an embarrassment for the United States is that our secondary education has become so poor. What is needed is for society to determine what is needed to improve secondary education and prepare to absorb the costs. Unfortunately, our Republican Party is more interested in keeping the wealthy among us from having to help the middle class and it has been this way since the 2001 tax cuts.

Wally, in a perfect world, you would be correct. They should go there to learn. However, for instance, business courses are theory and seldom apply to the real world. I have hired and fired many business school graduates who bring their textbooks to work.....trying to apply their classroom to the real world. You are correct, however that nothing is guaranteed. You talk about absorbing the costs but with enrollment up only about 10% and spending up almost 400%, it proves that all of that "cost" has accomplished nothing. Now why would average people support the wealthy getting wealthier and take it on the chin. Use some common sense Carly.

$33K - the price of a mid level car that will only get a six year car loan at best. Put off the new BMW and the $400K home for a few years and one can paid off the school loan. The real problem is not more tax dollars to the schools and more free grants for some but lower college costs for all. Cut the money losing programs, the fancy dorms and the big salaries. The only reason the NH system agreed to no raise in cost was becasue they were reinstated some of the funds that had been cut. A question to ask is why there were no cuts before the tax dollars were cut if they can do now by only getting some of the cut dollars back???

How many average students graduate right into jobs where they can even consider a BMW or a $400,000 house? Salaries for entry level jobs has been stagnant for quite a while and most are lucky to be able to afford a used car and apartment. Increasing the debt load from college loans digs the hole that they have to climb out of that much deeper. Debt restricts their ability to spend and the whole market suffers.

Salaries for ALL occupations have been stagnant for awhile, thanks to the environmental agenda and Dodd-Frank as well as other Obama policies. What do you suggest, that we give people a free ride? Has anyone considered the staffing at institutions of higher learning. Our state schools have professors on sabbaticals and teaching one class while adjunct professors carry the load and increase the payroll. It is colleges that are causing this. But just wondering if you could maybe get Jake a job at the AG office?

When one is as uninformed as the writer appears it always leads to really bad decisions. Democrats created the problem the author cries about. HEADLINE: 1) Student Loan Debt Owed to Federal Government Up 463% Under Obama 2) Elizabeth Warren claims that the U.S. earns $51 billion in profits on student loans. 3) Biden Admits Government Subsidies Have Increased College Tuition. I suspect that the author like so many of the CM Rag LIDV readers here does not know that hidden inside NObamakare was the democrats mandating a federal takeover of Student loans. Now democrats turn the crisis they created into a populist campaign issue - a God awful way to campaign to run a country. How has the democrat reign worked out for ya?

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