Student debt attracted unprecedented levels of attention during the 2012 presidential election.
As the country’s collective student loan bill exceeded for the first time1000 billion threshold and a congressional deadline on interest rates looming, student debt caught the attention of both presidential candidates.
Two years later, student debt remains a hot topic in Washington. And even without the drama of a presidential contest, the question arises over the 2014 election campaign in some of the more controversial Senate races.
Since hold a vote on their student loan refinancing plan last month, many Senate Democrats promoted the plan across the country. Most obviously, the lead architect of the proposal, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, has visited West Virginia and Kentucky in recent weeks to campaign for the Democratic Senate candidates.
Warren rallied voters in both states with a populist message about helping the middle class, including bringing relief to student loan borrowers. As she has done before, she presented her debt relief bill as a choice between helping college students or the wealthy Americans.
In West Virginia, Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant, the current Secretary of State, has distanced herself from Warren’s support for the Obama administration’s regulations on coal emissions.
But Tennant enthusiastically passed Warren’s student debt refinancing bill, including it as part of his education program. Tennant and Warren were both featured at a campaign rally this month by a West Virginia University law student who said she would be in debt of $ 108,000 upon graduation.
Tennant also criticized his Republican opponent, US Representative Shelley Moore Capito, for her opposition to the refinancing legislation.
In Kentucky, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes has also sought to use student debt to bolster her efforts to overthrow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Appearing with Warren at a University Affordability rally at the University of Louisville earlier this month, Grimes approved the student debt refinancing legislation and criticized McConnell for blocking it.
Again, Warren took a few flaks. In addition to criticism that his liberal policies were out of step with Kentucky’s votes, local Republicans directly echoed Warren’s student aid message with a dig of his salary at Harvard University, holding signs stating that she “took $ 429,981 from the students”, according to The Boston Globe.
Other Senate Democrats across this country looking to retain their seats this election cycle have also looked to student loan issues to some extent. In Hawaii, Senator Brian Schatz runs ads touting his support for last year’s student interest rate compromise. (The ad also cites its legislation aimed at linking federal student assistance to college accountability performance).
Virginia Senator Mark Warner broadcasts a biographical announcement who says he lived in a car and slept on friends’ couches while “trying to pay off my student loans”. The announcement also indicates that Warner has fought to lower interest rates on student loans.
Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, meanwhile, posted on her website a student loan calculator where voters who already have student loans can see how much they would have saved under the refinancing bill she supported. She also cites the reform of student loans among the priorities for which she is fighting in one of her TV commercials. His campaign says refinancing legislation is the evidence to support this claim.
In Arkansas, Democratic Senator Mark Pryor also touted his support for the student loan refinancing measure while criticizing his Republican opponent, Representative Tom Cotton, for voting to cut student aid.
Pryor’s has also received help from outside political groups in this line of criticism. The National Association of Educationthe defense arm of and the Democratic Party Patriot Majority USA group are both running ads against Cotton for what they perceive to be hypocrisy in his stance on student aid.
“Congressman Tom Cotton used federal student loans to help pay for Harvard, but now Cotton wants to end those same loan programs,” one of the narrators of the announcement said. A teacher then says that Cotton is trying to deny Arkansas students the same advantage he was given.
Higher education issues also played a role in the New Hampshire Senate race. Outgoing Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen released a new announcement last week that focused solely on refinancing student loans.
“Right now, our students can’t refinance their loans the same way you refinance a car loan or mortgage,” she said in the a d, citing the state’s average student loan burden of $ 33,000. “I want to change this. I am fighting for a bill that allows students to refinance their loans. It will lower rates and save families thousands of dollars.”
After Shaheen first touted his vote to refinance the loan last month, his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, released his own higher education. plan. Among other things, he calls for wealthy universities to be held accountable for their endowments and the remuneration of administrators and professors. He owns separately demanded that large university endowments be taxed.