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Voters discuss college debt

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Voters at Radiant Life Church and Hyatt Park Elementary School were aware of students’ concerns about college debt, but college debt was not an issue that influenced their candidate choices.

Walker White, a 28-year-old network engineer, voted at Radiant Life Church in Elgin, South Carolina. He is currently paying off eight loans, totaling to $65,000, that he used to fund his studies at a technical school, a public four-year university and a private four-year institution.

White has consolidated and refinanced his loans twice and has finally reached a payment plan that spans over 25 years.

“Sallie Mae is a b—-,” said white, referring to the Student Loan Marketing Association nicknamed “Sallie Mae.” Established in 1973, Sallie Mae was designed to support the guaranteed student loan program created by the Higher Education Act of 1965.

White said that some of the presidential candidates may have offered debt reform strategies, but they wouldn’t affect him because the plans are focused on debts incurred by those currently in college, not the debt of college graduates still paying student loans

While White said he does not identify with any particular party, he did say he would vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Jason Reese, 42, also voting at Radiant Life Church, works in the financial industry. He graduated from a public four-year institution with student debt. He was able to make his monthly payments, and he actually paid his loans off “a few years early.”

Reese said his annual tuition was about $15,000, but acknowledged that tuition rates have more than doubled in the past decade.

“College is expensive, and it is concerning in some ways,” Reese said. He added that he is aware college costs might need to be high to include salaries of professors.

“As a father of four, I can’t pay for all of my kids’ college. I contribute to a 529 plan. It’s a concern, but I am planning for it,” Reese said. He declined to reveal his choice for president.

Charles Henson, 61, a retired Army veteran voted at Hyatt Park Elementary School near downtown Columbia, South Carolina. He had no student debt upon college graduation because the military paid for his education.

If he had not chosen to enter the military, would he have still pursued a college education? “Absolutely not,” said Henson. “I would just rely on my common sense and street smarts. I’ve always had a job.” Henson voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Lee Wells, 50, an insurance adjuster, is the mother of two children who graduated with student loan debt. She helped both of her children pay off their debt while they were living at home, but stopped helping once they decided to move out.

Wells attended a technical school 20 years ago and her tuition for both years totaled to about $4,000. The high cost of tuition today, “makes me angry. There is no reason why it should go up that much.”

As a Republican and supporter of Republican Donald Trump, Wells said, “it is not reasonable to make the government pay for people’s student loan debt, but there should be easier ways to pay it off. Kind of like they do for teachers, but for all degrees. It will also give people a sense of community and build compassion if they give back more.”

Speaking to these individuals reinforced my belief that college debt is a major issue that affects individuals of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

View Channon Watkins’ blog THE GENERATIONAL DELAY.

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A student news site of Columbia College
Voters discuss college debt