College Bang for Buck As a 2016 Campaign Issue

Another reason to pay some close attention to the 2015 Washington Monthly College Guideis that the interlocking issues of college quality and affordability are likely to become significant campaign issues in 2016.

Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton have all unveiled comprehensive plans to lower the cost of attending college and reduce student debt loads.

Jeb Bush (like President Obama) has endorsed Tennessee’s efforts to make two years community college tuition free, though unlike President Obama, he hasn’t come up with any way to replicate it nationally.

Marco Rubio is involved in an important bipartisan effort to make data on colleges’ success and failure in lifting the income potential of students available to everyone, called the “Know Before You Go” legislation. Beyond that, he likes to talk about deregulating higher ed, which could mean any number of good or bad things.

That’s about it so far for the Republicans, though Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal have very eloquent records of non-support for public higher education in their own states.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who’s rumored to be planning to release a big higher ed proposal at some point in the near future. The Donald’s main contribution to higher ed policy in the past was Trump University. Here’s what Daniel Luzer had to say about that “initiative” back in April at College Guide:

Pretend [sic!] GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has run into a lot of trouble over a seminar/career development/college/marketing project he ran for awhile called Trump University.

Back in 2010 New York State demanded that he stop using the word “university” to describe what he was running. The “use of the word ‘university’ by your corporation is misleading and violates New York Education Law and the Rules of the Board of Regents,” said Joseph Frey, the state the deputy commissioner for higher education.

It’s unclear how Trump will outdo his own record of false promises in this area, but I’m sure he will try.

In the meantime, read the 2015 College Guide to get the facts straight before the spin starts.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.