FACT SHEET: The State Of Higher Education In Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia has some of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious higher education institutions, but it is difficult for many Virginians to afford college without incurring significant debt. Average annual tuition and fees at Virginia public colleges are rising, and are already higher than the national average. In 2015, the average student loan debt for students who borrowed to earn a bachelor’s degree at Virginia’s four-year public and private institutions was $26,432. What’s more, it is not only the young that struggle with student debt; the number of seniors aged 60 and older who have student loan debt rose 47% between 2012 and 2017, with the median student loan balance among seniors being $14,950 in 2017.

Borrowers in Virginia and across the nation are in crisis because of the high price of a college education. But it’s not just tuition bills beleaguering student loan borrowers; poor management and excessive fines by student loan servicers like Nelnet and Navient Solutions—the latter of which is headquartered in Virginia—make it even harder for borrowers to pay back their loans. These student loan companies have a track record of failing to inform borrowers of their repayment options or how they can avoid default. As Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial election draws near, there couldn’t be a sharper contrast between the two candidates on policies that would address college affordability and help borrowers with repayment and basic consumer rights. Young people are eager to see solutions to the student debt crisis, and we know that policies like free or debt-free college and putting predatory student loan servicers on a leash via a Borrower’s Bill of Rights would help young Virginians. Student debt affects 1 in 5 households nationwide, and here are some quick facts about the student debt crisis in Virginia:

Nationally, President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have yet to produce any sort of comprehensive plan to deal with college affordability and the student debt crisis. Even worse, they want Congress to eliminate important programs and repayment options that limit interest accumulation for borrowers with financial need or provide loan forgiveness for nonprofit and public sector workers.

The same rollback of progress is happening on the state-level in Virginia; Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie has similarly failed to come up with tangible policies to address Virginia’s student debt crisis. Virginia Republicans recently blocked efforts in the state legislature to establish a Borrower’s Bill of rights, which would have protected students struggling with their loans and inadequate student loan servicers, and established a consumer watchdog to remedy these problems. Moreover, Gillespie – a professional lobbyist – has both worked many years for and taken many dollars from student loan servicing companies and big banks, trying to change laws to make it easier for them to profit off of student debt.

The contrast with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam couldn’t be clearer. He has campaigned on a platform to make college debt-free and wants to help borrowers by providing them with greater consumer protections.

Virginia needs a plan to not only help student loan borrowers in the state, but make higher education a public good again for all.

Download the fact sheet here.

TAKE ACTION: The State of Higher Education In Virginia

Virginia deserves a governor that will fight for hard-working student loan borrowers. With his ties to student loan servicers and lack of action on college affordability, Ed Gillespie is not the man for the job. Share your student loan story now and read more about Gillespie’s shady lobbying history below.

 

The Commonwealth of Virginia has some of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious higher education institutions, but it is difficult for many Virginians to afford college without incurring significant debt. Average annual tuition and fees at Virginia public colleges are rising, and are already higher than the national average. In 2015, the average student loan debt for students who borrowed to earn a bachelor’s degree at Virginia’s four-year public and private institutions was $26,432. What’s more, it is not only the young that struggle with student debt; the number of seniors aged 60 and older who have student loan debt rose 47% between 2012 and 2017, with the median student loan balance among seniors being $14,950 in 2017.

Borrowers in Virginia and across the nation are in crisis because of the high price of a college education. But it’s not just tuition bills beleaguering student loan borrowers; poor management and excessive fines by student loan servicers like Nelnet and Navient Solutions—the latter of which is headquartered in Virginia—make it even harder for borrowers to pay back their loans. These student loan companies have a track record of failing to inform borrowers of their repayment options or how they can avoid default. As Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial election draws near, there couldn’t be a sharper contrast between the two candidates on policies that would address college affordability and help borrowers with repayment and basic consumer rights. Young people are eager to see solutions to the student debt crisis, and we know that policies like free or debt-free college and putting predatory student loan servicers on a leash via a Borrower’s Bill of Rights would help young Virginians. Student debt affects 1 in 5 households nationwide, and here are some quick facts about the student debt crisis in Virginia:

Nationally, President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have yet to produce any sort of comprehensive plan to deal with college affordability and the student debt crisis. Even worse, they want Congress to eliminate important programs and repayment options that limit interest accumulation for borrowers with financial need or provide loan forgiveness for nonprofit and public sector workers.

The same rollback of progress is happening on the state-level in Virginia; Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie has similarly failed to come up with tangible policies to address Virginia’s student debt crisis. Virginia Republicans recently blocked efforts in the state legislature to establish a Borrower’s Bill of Rights, which would have protected students struggling with their loans and inadequate student loan servicers and established a consumer watchdog to remedy these problems. Moreover, Gillespie – a professional lobbyist – has both worked many years for and taken many dollars from student loan servicing companies and big banks, trying to change laws to make it easier for them to profit off of student debt.

The contrast with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam couldn’t be clearer. He has campaigned on a platform to make college debt-free and wants to help borrowers by providing them with greater consumer protections.

Virginia needs a plan to not only help student loan borrowers in the state but make higher education a public good again for all.

Download the fact sheet here.

Progressive Power: Rally And Organize Over Inauguration Weekend

As Donald Trump takes the oath of office on January 20, progressives will not be accepting this new administration with open arms. Americans from across the nation will be coming to Washington D.C. to resist the spread of hate, racism, sexism, and xenophobia that has followed the Trump campaign and administration-to-be.

Join Generation Progress Action and our progressive allies at one (or two or three) of these incredible events happening in Washington D.C. January 20-22.

Inauguration Weekend Map

Don’t see your event listed below? Tweet at @GPPushback with event information and we’ll add it to the list!

JANUARY 20

Rally for Humanity | 10AM — 1PM | Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Get the details.

Join activists from across the country as we convene on the National Mall, to Rally for Humanity during the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. The purpose of this gathering is to show resistance to the intolerance and injustice occurring across country that has been exacerbated by the 2016 presidential election. Moreover, we want to reinforce, that we expect all branches of government to serve and protect all citizens regardless of their identities.

We Are Progress: The Trump Resistance Bootcamp (Generation Progress Action) | 12PM — 6PM | George Washington University
Get the details.

Join us in Washington D.C. on January 20 for a dynamic one-day youth training event to help equip progressive Millennials with the issue strategies and skills necessary to mount an effective resistance against the Trump Administration. Workshops will include trainings on issue-based resistance — with such topics as immigration, higher education, civil rights, climate and energy, and health care — and skills-based resistance, including sessions on citizen-lobbying, earned media tactics, and how young people can run for public office.

JANUARY 21

The People’s Inauguration (NAACP) | 9AM | Howard University
Get the details.

Leaders of the youth wing of the civil right organization, along with partners in Justice League New York and the Empowerment Movement will join together at the “People’s Inauguration” rally. The rally will re-unite allies and partners who helped register thousands of new and young voters during the 2016 election with the goal to launch a new era of activism and protest against potential threats from the presidency of Donald J. Trump. During the meeting, attendees will begin collaborating to unite together and stand for a progressive policy agenda in the coming months and years.

Women’s March on Washington | 10AM | Intersection of Independence Avenue and Third Street SW
Get the details.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

#WeRise Teach-In (Public Citizen) | 1:30PM — 8:30PM | 1500 Harvard St. NW
Get the details.

On the day after inauguration, we are providing a safe, warm space for folks coming to the Women’s March — and other progressive events taking place inauguration weekend — to gain a deeper understanding of the critical challenges facing our nation, find ways to plug into grassroots campaigns that tackle those challenges, connect with people from a vast array of movements and acquire skills to become more effective organizers at home.

Roll Up Your Sleeves | 5PM — 6:30PM | 1602 U St. NW
Get the details.

‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ will bring together citizens, activists, experts and organizers on the evening of January 21 to talk about how – concretely – we can defend our fundamental freedoms and values over the next four years. The Women’s March on Washington offers a unique opportunity to bring people together from around the country to talk about what steps we can take.

JANUARY 22

Getting Ready to Run (Emily’s List) | 9AM — 12PM | Downtown Washington D.C.
Get the details.

Local offices are ground zero for legislation aimed at stripping our rights, disenfranchising progressive voters, and ensuring a Republican majority for generations. We need to stop it. We need women running for every office at every level. We need you talking to your neighbors, organizing your communities, debating your opponents, changing the conversation — and winning.

Women’s March Day 2: Action and Advocacy Training | 9AM — 3PM | Dupont, Washington D.C.
Get the details.

Looking for ways to deepen your activism after the Women’s March? There’s a big fight ahead of us, and we need all hands on deck! Generation Progress, Ms. Foundation, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and United State of Women invite you to a day of trainings and policy breakouts to educate and empower participants and build a network out of this momentous event.

For more on traveling to and within the city of Washington D.C. during the busy inauguration weekend, visit DC.gov. If you’ll be spending time in D.C., these businesses are donating a portion of their profits made over inauguration weekend to local and national non-profits.

RSVP For We Are Progress

Join us in Washington D.C. on January 20 for a dynamic one-day youth training event to help equip progressive Millennials with the issue strategies and skills necessary to mount an effective resistance against the Trump Administration. Workshops will include trainings on issue-based resistance — with such topics as immigration, higher education, civil rights, climate and energy, and health care — and skills-based resistance, including sessions on citizen-lobbying, earned media tactics, and how young people can run for public office.

The full agenda can be found here.

We Are Progress: The Trump Resistance Bootcamp
George Washington University, Washington D.C.
12:00 PM — 6:00 PM

The event is free, but online pre-registration is mandatory. RSVP’s will close on Thursday, January 19 at 12:00PM ET. Attendees will receive event and security information via email shortly after.

TOOLKITS: The State Of Higher Education

Today, 43 million Americans hold some sort of student debt, America holds $1.3 trillion in student loans, and the average student is graduating with nearly almost $30,000 in debt. Millennials know this is a crisis—they’re experiencing it first-hand. Recent research shows that it’s the issues—not the candidates—that will inspire the youth vote. And the results are in: student debt is not just an issue for Millennials, it’s the issue.

As the student debt crisis only worsens in states across the country, some state leaders have done little to help borrowersYoung people are eager to see solutions to the student debt crisis, and we know that policies like debt-free college and student loan refinancing would help young people especially.

Higher education is on the ballot in a number of states. Candidates have taken up the rallying cry of debt-free college, pledging to bring student loan refinancing, a strong Pell grant program, and strict regulations for for-profit institutions to their states. But other state leaders have been more rhetoric than action, expressing sympathy for borrowers but doing nothing to take concrete steps to bring forth policy to ease the debt burden.

Check out how higher education is playing into the races in your state in the fact sheets below.

Missouri
Nevada
New Hampshire
North Carolina
Pennsylvania
Wisconsin

To learn more about how the student debt crisis impacts our country, its unique constituencies, and the presidential election, check out our higher education messaging toolkit.

Donald Trump’s Student Debt “Plan” Could Cost Borrowers 78% More On Their Loans And Leave Millions Of Millennials Behind

By Hannah Finnie and Maggie Thompson

TrumpHigherEdHeader

Americans can’t afford Donald Trump—literally. The Republican presidential nominee has spent precious little time talking about—let alone proposing solutions for—the student debt crisis, which has left 43 million Americans $1.3 trillion in debt. While Trump has yet to produce any sort of comprehensive plan to deal with the student debt crisis, from what we can infer from his contradictory public statements, any version of a Donald Trump “plan” to address student debt would skyrocket interest rates for borrowers. By privatizing student loans, Trump’s “plan” could increase monthly payments for borrowers by 23.4 to 78 percent, costing borrowers between $7,342 and $24,469 more over the life of their loans. This would deny access to college for thousands, and constitute a giveaway to Wall Street and private lenders—without ever addressing state disinvestment from higher education, the root cause of the student debt crisis.

Private Loans, Prohibitive Costs

Trump has said multiple times that he wants to eliminate the Department of Education, a position that is echoed in the Republican Party platform, which states that “the federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans.” Eliminating the Department of Education’s role in student lending would effectively hand the student loan market over to private banks, where interest rates are high and consumer protections and loan modification options are low.

Take the average borrower in the United States, who currently holds approximately $25,000 in debt.  Under the 2014 average federal loan interest rate of 4.75 percent, over 10 years of repayment the average borrower would pay back a little more than $31,000. However, the average private student loan interest rate is significantly higher. Sallie Mae, the largest private student loan bank, lends at an average interest rate of 7.93 percent to borrowers with strong credit scores. If the Department of Education were eliminated and only private loans with an average interest rate of 7.93 percent were available, borrowers would have to pay approximately $5,000 more over the life of the loan—a 16 percent increase. However, these rates are only for Americans that have an average FICO score of 748 and 90 percent are co-signed.

The situation could look far bleaker—and far costlier—for many borrowers with lower credit scores or no co-signer. It’s highly unlikely that the vast majority of federal borrowers would have such a strong credit score or someone else willing to sign on to the loan. Many Americans who otherwise would have taken on federal loans would likely not qualify for private loans with 7.93 percent interest rates. Instead, under a Trump presidency, many borrowers would likely see interest rates in the double digits. A 2012 report co-authored by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education, for example, found that borrowers with worse credit ended up with interest rates between 9.5 and 19 percent. If Trump had his way, new borrowers with lower credit scores could end up paying between $7,340 and $24,470 more over the life of their loan.

Across all 50 states, borrowers who otherwise could have enjoyed the lower interest rates of federal loans would instead have to pay thousands of dollars more over the lifetime of their loans. Borrowers with low credit scores in the District of Columbia would face the most dramatic increase—a jump of over $37,000 in the amount owed over the lifetime of the loan. Of the 50 states, borrowers in Georgia would see the highest jump, with low credit score borrowers potentially paying nearly $29,000 more over the lifetime of their loans.

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Outsized Impact for Women, Minorities, and Low-Income Families

Of course, this increased burden wouldn’t affect everyone equally—and for some, it wouldn’t just mean higher costs, but a complete shut-out from the loans needed to finance a college degree. In particular, low- and middle-income families would be disproportionately burdened, thereby exacerbating the impact of the racial wealth gap, because of the difference in how private and federal loans rely on credit checks. For the majority of federal financial aid, including Pell grants and direct loans, no credit check is necessary. For subsidized federal loans, the government further assists low-income borrowers by paying the interest while a student is in school.  Private loans, on the other hand, require credit checks, which render families with poor credit scores ineligible for student loans, effectively cutting off the path to higher education for students without high credit scores.

We know that student debt impacts already vulnerable populations more than others. Zip codes with high African American and Latino populations, for instance, suffer disproportionately high student loan delinquency rates. Within minority populations, middle-income families are the ones who default the most on student loans, demonstrating the presence of structural racism in higher education and labor markets. Veterans, despite serving our country, hold higher amounts of student debt than non-veterans, meaning their student debt burdens would increase even more under Trump’s privatization of student loans. Women, too, would face a disproportionately steep increase in their student debt. Women currently make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes—and the numbers are even worse for women of color. The gender wage gap leaves women less able to pay back their loans; indeed, 53 percent of women versus 39 percent of men already have a high student loan debt burden. This means that any increase in the student debt crisis would disproportionately burden women and perpetuate the disparities women face.

Trump’s “plan” to cut the Department of Education, thereby privatizing student loans, would have an outsized effect on vulnerable populations. But that’s not all it would do: eliminating the Department of Education would also entail eliminating Pell grants, a proven and necessary aid for underprivileged students. Eight million low-income students (including a disproportionate number of students of color) currently rely on Pell grants each year to finance their educations. Without Pell grants, low-income students would either have to take out more in loans (with higher interest rates) or would be unable to receive a loan and access school at all. Either way, inequality would only continue to worsen.

By privatizing student loans and eliminating Pell grants, Trump would push higher education out of reach for the very populations who rely on it the most as a pathway to economic stability.

More Loans, Fewer Protections

Trump’s student debt “plan” wouldn’t just significantly increase the total student debt burden, it would also decrease the consumer protections available to borrowers. For example, federal loans offer payment modification options, which allow borrowers to alter their loans loans—consolidating, say, all of a borrower’s smaller loans into one big loan with just one monthly payment. Federal student loan borrowers can also take advantage of programs designed to help keep payments manageable, like income-driven repayment programs and public service loan forgiveness. Private student loans, on the other hand, offer virtually none of these benefits. It’s this lack of critical consumer protections that too often drives borrowers with private student loans into default. And borrowers with private student loans report that they often aren’t given the information they need to avoid default.

Private student loans, in addition to lacking meaningful options for borrowers to avoid default also often contain egregious provisions such as an “auto-default clauses.” These clauses allow private lenders to demand full payment on the entire loan amount if a co-borrower files for bankruptcy or dies. In this scenario, private lenders can automatically place the borrower in default even if they can continue making full, monthly payments.

Political Pandering on Income-Driven Repayment Programs

One of the primary benefits of federal student loans versus private student loans is the suite of income-driven repayment programs that allow borrowers to lower their monthly payments to a set percentage of their discretionary income and then forgive the rest of the loan at the end of a set time period.  President Obama expanded these income-driven repayment options with options like Pay As You Earn (PAYE), which allows borrowers to cap their monthly payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income and have any remaining balances forgiven after 20 years of repayment.

Trump’s claim in his October remarks that he will allow all borrowers to enroll in repayment plans that will cap borrower payments to 12.5 percent of their income and forgive the remaining balance after 15 years is suspect at best, given that he is running on the ticket of the Republican party—which has tried numerous times to make income-driven repayment programs less generous. It should also be noted that Trump made this announcement with only 26 days left to go in an election where the youth vote is crucial, and an expansion of income-driven repayment programs in no way fits with his overall “plan” to eliminate the Department of Education and federal loans.

Trump’s October remarks also seemed to suggest that he plans to eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), a program that forgives the loans of federal borrowers in public service after 10 years of on-time payments. This would be a crushing blow for the nearly 1 million public servants who have enrolled in the program anticipating loan forgiveness. Given that his campaign has not actually released a plan with any of these proposals, it is difficult to know what he actually intends.

From Public Good To Private Gain

Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again, but for whom? His student debt “plan” represents a give away to private lenders that will ultimately harm borrowers and does nothing to arrest college costs and give students an affordable path to a degree. What’s more, his “plan” does nothing to address state disinvestment in higher education, a major source of the increase in college costs.

Making higher education more affordable and giving students a path to graduate from college debt-free is one of the most important investments we can make as a country—not just to propel our students’ futures, but to jumpstart the entire American economy.

The Millennial generation, America’s largest generation, is already struggling to keep up with exorbitant monthly payments in the wake of the higher-than-average unemployment rates and lower-than-average wages left by the Great Recession. As we delay buying homes, starting families, and making big purchases, the entire American economy suffers. Donald Trump’s student debt “plan” would only increase monthly student loan payments and create new profit for private student loan banks.

 

Methodology: Our analysis relies on 2013-2014 data from the U.S. Department of Education, which provides a state-by-state breakdown of the number of federal student loan borrowers and the total outstanding federal student loan debt.  To calculate the increases in monthly payments at the state level we relied on the state breakdown of data from the Department of Education supplied in the 2014 “Taking Action: Higher Education and Student Debt” report from the White House Domestic Policy Council.

To determine the average federal student loan interest rate, we derived the weighted average across all types of federal student loans using the federal interest rates during the 2013-2014 school year and the program volume report disbursements from the same year.  To calculate the increase in the monthly payments of the average borrower if a switch to private lending were to occur, we compared this federal loan average (4.75 percent) to private loan interest rates provided by SallieMae, the largest private student lender, in their 2016 Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The filing indicated that for borrowers with lower credit scores, the average private loan interest rate ranges from 9.5 percent to 19 percent.

Vote Higher: Higher Education Messaging Toolkit

Today, 43 million Americans hold some sort of student debt, America holds $1.3 trillion in student loans, and the average student is graduating with nearly almost $30,000 in debt. Millennials know this is a crisis—they’re experiencing it first-hand. Recent research shows that it’s the issues—not the candidates—that will inspire the youth vote. And the results are in: student debt is not just an issue for Millennials, it’s the issue.

When Millennials were asked what policies would be most likely to motivate them to get out and vote for a candidate, three of the top five policies they chose had to do with student debt and higher education. Millennials want their elected officials to address the rising costs of college, throw a lifeline to borrowers struggling with debt, and address an economy that continues to leave many young Americans behind. Still, one in three Millennials don’t feel as though candidates are talking enough about the issues that matter to them. To fill that gap, we’re giving you the facts, foundation, and framing proven to connect with Millennials on student debt—let’s get to work.

Fast Facts:

  • The student debt burden surpasses both credit card and auto debt in this country, and is the only type of debt that has increased since the Great Recession
  • Student debt originated in state disinvestment in higher education, passing the costs onto students
  • Over the past 30 years, all but two states have pulled money out of their public higher education system
  • The cost of college is rising: the price tag for tuition has risen 1100% in the last 30 years
  • For-profit colleges are a big part of the problem:
    • 47% of students who have defaulted on their loans went to for-profit colleges
    • For-profit colleges only enroll 10% of all students, but receive 25% of federal financial aid dollars and account for almost half of all student loan defaults

Talking Points:

  • The Problem: The student debt crisis is a dead weight on the American economy. Student debt is keeping American students, families from getting ahead. College costs have spiraled, forcing more students and parents to borrow and leaving less and less money for families to put towards buying a house or saving for retirement.
  • The Solution: Addressing the student debt crisis will jumpstart the American economy and expand opportunities exponentially for young Americans. Helping borrowers currently struggling with debt, and ensuring that future students can graduate debt-free, is the single best investment in our country’s future we can make.
  • The Framing: Affordable higher education isn’t a radical idea.  Thirty years ago college costs were low and Pell grants, coupled with a summer job, could allow students to graduate debt free. Our parents were able to go to college without taking on crushing debt, we are asking for the same fair shot.  We need to make higher education a public good again.

Read the rest of our toolkit for constituency-specific messaging, and a point-by-point rebuttal against the major myths on student debt today.

Check out how higher education is playing into the races in your state in the fact sheets below:

Missouri
Nevada
New Hampshire
North Carolina
Pennsylvania
Wisconsin

Want More Millennials To Vote? Talk To Them About Higher Education.

Millennials may be the most diverse generation in history, but concern for higher education and student debt cuts sharply across race and gender lines. According to a new poll released by Generation Progress Action, three of the top five issues most likely to bring young voters to the voting booths this November relate to higher education.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling of registered voters aged 18-35, found that young voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports debt-free college for working families, free community college, and student loan refinancing. As Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as the largest generation and begin to fully define the workforce, Millennials’ priorities will become America’s priorities. And the results are in: Millennials want their elected officials to address the rising costs of college, the staggering student debt crisis, and an economy that continues to leave many young Americans behind. Read on for a deeper explanation of the issues that motivate Millennials—and a vision for the Millennial agenda.

Higher Education and Student Debt Drive Millennial Motivation

Even if Millennials are able to find employment (a major if: the youth unemployment rate is still twice the national average), they’re still burdened by unwieldy amounts of student debt and a system of higher education that is all too often out of reach. The results from the poll show that these concerns top Millennials’ priorites: 78 percent of Millennials would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports free public college for families that earn less than $125,000 a year, and 74 percent support free community college for all. An overwhelming majority of Millennials (71 percent) also said they would be much or somewhat more likely to support a candidate who supported student loan refinancing (unlike mortgages and most other kinds of loans, student loans cannot be refinanced to take advantage of current lower interest rates). Together, these were three of the top five issues Millennials said would make them more likely to vote for a candidate of the 14 issues polled.

MillennialPoll

Though student debt was a rarity a generation ago and students could work their way through college, the cost of college has grown 1,120 percent since 1978. And, what’s more, people of color are disproportionately burdened by this growing debt: according to a national analysis of student debt data by Generation Progress and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, black and Latino Americans are especially impacted.

Millennials Want Economic Stability

As the last members of the Millennial generation complete college and find and settle into jobs, Millennials’ primary concern is a stable concern. Thirty-four percent of the young people polled said that “jobs and economy” is the most important issue of the 2016 election, and 24 percent say that it’s the second most important issue.

As the youth unemployment rate continues to hover around ten percent, young people believe that the U.S. needs to focus on job creation as a way to help boost the national economy. Millennials polled acknowledged the importance of government intervention, but want to see federal funds being used proactively towards this goal. A majority (66 percent) of Millennials said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who will put young people to work by using federal funds to rebuild American infrastructure, American manufacturing and clean energy initiatives, with 29 percent much more likely and 37 percent somewhat more likely.

But Millennials don’t just want more jobs—they want better jobs with better benefits. Sixty-nine percent of Milllennials polled said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who had a plan to put affordable childcare and paid family leave within reach for young Americans trying to start families. And 67 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Criminal Justice Reform and Gun Violence Prevention Matter To Millennials

In addition to higher education, student debt, and economic stability, Millennials also want their elected officials to make their communities safer, through criminal justice reform and enhanced gun violence prevention efforts. Notably, 71 percent of Millennials polled said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who was committed to holding law enforcement officers accountable for their actions, increasing office and leadership diversity, and eliminating racial profiling. Moreover, 69 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports laws that prohibit gun purchases by perpetrators of hate crimes, individuals with ties to terrorist organizations or individuals with a history of domestic violence. And 62 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, while just 19 percent said they’d be less likely.

STATEMENT: Generation Progress Action’s Maggie Thompson Donald Trump’s Divisive Campaign and Secretary Clinton’s Response

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2016

CONTACT: Kyle Epstein, 202-481-8137
kepstein@americanprogressaction.org

 

STATEMENT: Generation Progress Action’s Maggie Thompson Donald Trump’s Divisive Campaign and Secretary Clinton’s Response

Washington, D.C.— Maggie Thompson, Executive Director of Generation Progress Action, issued the following statement in response to Hillary Clinton’s speech last night on the extremism and divisiveness embraced by Donald Trump and his campaign:

“As members of the most diverse generation in American history, Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric does not resonate with us in the least. His candidacy has taken hate to the mainstream, and in the 14 months since he announced his run for the most powerful office in the world, he has slandered women, Latinos, Muslims, African-Americans, the disabled, veterans, LGBTQ-Americans, and others, to no end.  Last night, we were heartened to see Secretary Clinton take an unequivocal stand against any and all forms of discrimination.

Only one candidate is talking about the issues young people care about, and Donald Trump’s talk of mass deportation, misogyny, and religious litmus tests are not the types of policies our generation supports. We are proud to see Secretary Clinton talk about the issues we care about, from student debt, to equal pay, to criminal justice reform, to LGBTQ rights. She knows, as young people do, that our country cannot make progress without moving forward together.”

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Kyle Epstein at kepstein@americanprogressaction.org or 202.481.8137

 

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Generation Progress Action, the youth division of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, is a nonpartisan organization that works with and for young people to promote progressive solutions to key political and social challenges. Through programs in activism, journalism, and events, Generation Progress Action engages a diverse group of young people nationwide, inspires them to embrace progressive values, pro`vides them with essential trainings, and helps them to make their voices heard on important policy issues. Launched in 2005 and formerly called Campus Progress Action, we support national and local advocacy campaigns; run a daily web magazine for young progressives; support student publications on more than 50 campuses; and have held more than 900 public events. For more information, please visit pushback.org.

 

 

What Does It Mean When A Police Union Asks For A Temporary Ban Against Open Carry?

By Cathy Tang

When the world didn’t end in 2012, thousands of Doomsday preppers emerged from their underground bunkers disappointed by the relative calm of the scheduled apocalypse. Fortunately for them, they can once again pull out their survival kits and pamphlets because the apocalypse wasn’t cancelled, it was just postponed until the 2016 Republican National Convention.

During every presidential election season, the who’s who of the Republican party gathers under one roof to officially nominate the party’s presidential candidate, and to kick-off the next four months of cross-country campaigning. To those who don’t usually pay attention to politics, the convention can come and go without so much as a hiccup, but this year’s convention put the spotlight not only on Republican nominee Donald Trump, but also, on the growing tensions between communities across America.

Given Trump’s vitriol campaign rhetoric, it’s no wonder that the country held its breath in anticipation as the convention convened in a city with the third highest poverty rate in America. Those living in Cleveland and those tasked with protecting the city during the convention feared, and with good reason, that the week-long event would bring about violent and uncontrolled clashes between protesters, citizens, and convention attendees. In anticipation of these close encounters, Cleveland hospitals had increased their stock of medical supplies, the city brought in 2,500 outside law enforcement officials to help monitor the barricades separating the attendees from the protesters, and citizens were warned by their local government to stay away from the downtown area, where the convention would take place. In perhaps the most surprising and telling move leading up to the convention, the president of Cleveland’s largest police union wrote and requested that Governor John Kasich, a Republican and former candidate for president, place a temporary ban on Cleveland’s open carry policy.

Ohio has traditionally been considered an “open carry” state because neither federal nor state laws prohibit citizens from openly carrying firearms. This means that individuals can carry their firearms around without a permit, so long as the firearm is made clearly visible. By demanding a temporary ban, the police union effectively asked that for one week, citizens be restricted from openly carrying their weapons. This request, although denied by the governor, signals a tremendous effort by law enforcement officials to suspend a state policy in an effort to maintain and maximize safety and precaution for the city. In other words, law enforcement officials recognized that even with responsible gun ownership and gun usage, the proliferation of firearms in public spaces would undoubtedly make the safety of these spaces more and more difficult to regulate and monitor.

Gun violence prevention advocates have consistently questioned the logic of open carry, so it comes as no surprise to them to hear a request for a suspension of open carry for security reasons. What is wholly surprising however, is that this request came from law enforcement officials themselves. While officers from around the country have often made statements opposing open carry, none have ever gone so far as to request a temporary ban on it. The significance of Ohio’s largest police union requesting a ban should not be lost: trained law enforcement officials felt so compelled by the potential dangers of open carry that they went so far as to request an executive order to ban open carry during the week of the convention. Given already heightened tensions, officers predicted that a contentious environment with easy access to firearms could result in uncontrolled violence and chaos. The Cleveland police union made their gun violence prevention stance overwhelmingly clear: Their job is to protect and serve the city of Cleveland but they cannot do their jobs well in a state that allows open carry during one of the most contentious Republican conventions this country has seen.

The effects of open carry don’t just stop with the police. Governor Kasich’s refusal to temporarily ban open carry during the week of the convention meant that in order for law enforcement officials to feel comfortable doing their jobs, they had to arm themselves with riot gear and other military-grade equipment. The hyper-militarization of the police poses significant security issues to the community and could have the adverse effect of escalating violence, rather than preventing it.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Ohio cited several concerns over the militarization of law enforcement officials during the convention. There is no reason why local law enforcement should have access to military-grade weapons and technology in a noncombat civilian state. Additionally, local police lack proper training for using these weapons and could “scare people into not exercising their right to protest peacefully.” In their attempt to maintain the safety of the collective community, Ohio enlisted the help of over 2,500 additional law enforcement officers—1,700 of whom were going to be housed in student dorms at Case Western Reserve University. Students and professors were told to cancel a week of summer classes in order to accommodate the presence of a paramilitary force on campus. Suddenly, the space of the university, one built with safety and learning in mind, became a space in which riot police with military grade weapons could sleep next door to unarmed students. Not only is this a distraction from the purpose of a higher education learning institution, but at its very core, this is a violation of the students’ right to safety on campus. Law enforcement or not, military grade weapons have no place on a university campus.

In an anonymous letter, a Case Western University professor asks, “What does it symbolize when a university library closes while security forces store firearms and pepper spray in dorms, weapons that will likely be used against next week’s demonstrators—some of whom, I fear, might be my students?” Additionally, at what point do the lines become so blurred that in order for a police force to protect and serve their community, they must first put that very community at risk? These are questions not only directed at law enforcement or government officials—these are questions we must ask and answer as we imagine our country’s future after the November elections.

These events leading up to the national convention do not exist in a vacuum. When a presidential nominee of a major party uses hateful rhetoric to incite fear, people react. They protest. When these divisions become so divisive that the police feel unsafe doing their jobs without riot gear, we need to seriously rethink our state of affairs. This is no apocalypse yet, but if the Republican National Convention is any indication of what life is like after a Republican victory in November, then I’ll be the first person in line for an underground bunker.

Cathy Tang is an intern with Generation Progress Action.

STATEMENT: Generation Progress Action’s Maggie Thompson on Secretary Clinton’s Debt-Free Future Proposal

Washington, D.C.—Today, Secretary Hillary Clinton announced a sweeping plan to address the soaring cost of higher education and the crippling loan debts that those costs induce. Under Secretary Clinton’s proposal, families who make under $125,000 per year will be eligible for tuition-free higher education, while collection on federal student loans would be halted for three months to allow borrowers to restructure or receive counseling on their repayment options.

As seen in similar efforts, like America’s College Promise, a broader movement to make higher education a public good through tuition-free education will level the playing field for all, and not impose an unfair burden on lower-income Americans. Generation Progress Action supports these proposals that will boost the efforts we have led for the past several years to help thousands of student loan borrowers navigate their repayment options, reform student loan servicing, and lessen the burden of debt.

Maggie Thompson, Executive Director of Generation Progress Action, issued the following statement in response:

“Secretary Clinton’s bold plan will remove barriers that keep college out of reach for too many young people, and will combat the crushing burden of student loan debt for millions of borrowers. This plan would make college accessible and affordable to the vast majority of Americans without the burden of debt or financial hardship. Today the cost of college has made higher education a commodity for the privileged, rather than a public good for all. Making college tuition-free for the majority of American families is a step toward ensuring that everyone in this country gets a fair shot at a higher education.

This plan will also combat the crushing burden of student debt by hitting the pause button on student loan repayment for a crucial three-month period. Today, student loan servicers too often act more like loan sharks than loan counselors, forcing organizations like ours to fill the information gap.  Many borrowers would benefit from income-driven repayment or loan forgiveness plans, but don’t know that these options exist. This reprieve will force servicers to do their jobs and guide borrowers through the maze of student loan repayment options. Borrowers deserve repayment options that work best for their own circumstances, not the servicer’s.

We are thrilled to see a candidate issue a full-throated defense of America’s higher education promise, and America’s students.”

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Kyle Epstein at kepstein@americanprogressaction.org or 202.481.8137

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Millennials And The 2014 Florida Gubernatorial Race

The 2014 Florida gubernatorial election—which pits incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) against former Gov. Charlie Crist (D)—is one of the most competitive races in the country. Florida has traditionally been a bellwether for national elections, and in the 2012 presidential election, the Millennial vote was key to tipping the state in favor of President Barack Obama.

The outcome of Florida’s gubernatorial race is particularly important for the state’s Millennials. Based on his past actions, Gov. Scott will continue to pursue policies that harm the future prospects of millions of young people in the state. Specifically, Gov. Scott’s stance on seven critical issues—the minimum wage, health care, immigration, women’s health and rights, guns, climate change, and marriage equality—have significance for Millennials in Florida.

Minimum Wage

Gov. Scott is opposed to increasing Florida’s minimum wage despite the fact that many Florida families are struggling to make ends meet even as the economy improves. The minimum wage has remained stagnant for the past 12 years, while Florida families have seen their cost of living increase by more than $10,000.

Although Florida’s current minimum wage of $7.93 per hour is slightly higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25—thanks to a 2004 state law that ties the minimum wage to inflation—it is not nearly enough. Florida’s minimum wage is still well below what families need to stay above the federal poverty line. A young person working full time in Florida at a minimum-wage job can expect to earn up to $16,500 per year. However, a recent study found that families in Orlando, Florida, need $51,854 to meet minimum standards of living.

In a recent debate, Gov. Scott said he opposed increasing the minimum wage, arguing that it would reduce the overall number of jobs. He commented, “When I hear a politician say that we have to raise the minimum wage so working families can make ends meet, I cringe, because I know that statement is a lie.”

Gov. Scott, however, is wrong. Florida has the second-highest number of minimum-wage earners in the country, most of them young people, and raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would have huge economic benefits. An increase in the minimum wage would provide more than 1.7 million Floridians with the opportunity to get ahead, not just get by. More money going into the pockets of workers means more money going back into the economy, leading to more customers for businesses, more jobs, and a stronger overall economy. Estimates point to a potential increase of more than $1.3 billion in economic activity if the state were to adopt the minimum $10.10 per hour.

Floridians across political and demographic groups overwhelmingly favor raising the state’s minimum wage, with 73 percent of voters supporting the increase.

Health Care

Gov. Scott has been a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, despite the fact that close to 1 million Floridians bought insurance through a marketplace plan. Prior to becoming governor, Scott spent $5 million of his own money to create an organization to oppose the law. As governor, Scott has taken steps to undermine the ACA. Florida was also the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by 26 states seeking to declare parts of federal health reform unconstitutional.

Gov. Scott has declined to set up a state-run health insurance exchange, a central component of the ACA that would allow Floridians the opportunity to enroll in health care plans. In late December 2012, Florida missed the deadline to notify the Department of Health and Human Services that it wants to run its own health insurance exchange, meaning that the federal government will have to step in and run the exchange itself. The Congressional Budget Office warned that relying on the federal government to set up exchanges could lead to confusion among people seeking health coverage.

Additionally, Scott has flip-flopped on his decision to expand Medicaid, leaving 764,000 Floridians without affordable health care coverage. In mid-2012, Gov. Scott remained adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid, saying that it “just doesn’t make any sense.” However, in early 2013, he withdrew his opposition, and he now says that he supports expanding the program. Despite this newfound support, Gov. Scott has not made the expansion a legislative priority, and hundreds of thousands of low-income Floridians continue to lack access to affordable health insurance options. Gov. Scott’s pushback against key provisions of the ACA has left many Florida residents without the full coverage options they deserve.

Immigration

Gov. Scott’s views on immigration have been extremely inconsistent during his time in office, while his political history belies an opposition to pro-immigrant reforms. In 2014, Gov. Scott finally signed legislation that would allow some undocumented students to access in-state tuition rates at the state’s public colleges and universities. This came, however, after years of publically opposing such measures, and it is an about-face from what he said in 2011: “… [W]ith regard to in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, I completely oppose it.” Only fear of a growing Latino electorate finally pushed Gov. Scott to support the legislation.

Despite his support for in-state tuition rates, Gov. Scott still opposes other laws that would benefit hundreds of thousands of undocumented residents. In 2013, Gov. Scott vetoed a bill that would have offered temporary driver’s licenses to some young immigrants who passed background checks. In his veto, he also publically criticized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The program, which President Obama announced two years ago, has helped close to 30,000 undocumented young people live without fear of deportation.

Women’s Health And Rights

Gov. Scott has consistently shown that he supports policies that threaten the health and economic security of Florida women. In June 2014, he signed H.B. 1047, a bill that makes it more difficult for women in Florida to access later-term abortions. At the same time, women see reproductive rights as fundamentally economic concerns; according to polling this spring, nearly 7 in 10 Millennials do not want to see the government involved in abortion decisions.

In 2012, Gov. Scott also vetoed $1.5 million to fund 30 rape crisis centers during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. State lawmakers had originally allotted the money to offset an increase in need and a lack of sufficient funding for survivor services. Gov. Scott justified his veto by pointing to funding that already goes to some rape crisis centers. Advocates, however, have pointed out that much of the existing funding only goes to education programs and not to actual services for rape survivors. These actions show that Gov. Scott has not served as an advocate for women.

Guns

Gov. Scott has signed 12 pro-gun measures into law since taking office in 2011, a single-term high for a Florida governor; no wonder he has an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association, or NRA.

These laws have made Florida the focus of the national conversation around high rates of gun violence. One of the more contentious bills signed by Gov. Scott, the so-called Docs vs. Glocks law, makes it a crime for doctors to ask patients if they own guns, though they are allowed to ask patients about other health risk factors such as smoking and drinking. In practice, the law prevents doctors from sharing safety tips to keep guns out of the hands of children or others unqualified to use them.

In 2014, Gov. Scott signed an extension of the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which gives people the right to use deadly force if they feel threatened. The law has been challenged by thousands of young black and Latino advocates in Florida who point out that too often, lax gun legislation combined with racial profiling leads to violence against young people of color.

By a 55 percent to 36 percent margin, Millennials nationwide favor taking steps to control gun ownership over protecting the right to own guns. However, Gov. Scott, with the unwavering support of the NRA, has refused to push back against legislation that contributes to gun violence in the state.

Climate Change

More than 80 percent of Floridians ages 18 to 34 see climate change in Florida as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. Moreover, about 65 percent of Florida Millennials think that the state should be “doing more” to get ready for climate change.

Gov. Scott, however, will not say whether he thinks man-made climate change is real and significant. He has ignored issues related to climate change despite a recent national report that indicates Florida is especially vulnerable to sea-level rises, increases in extreme heat, and decreased water availability. His refusal to act will leave millions of Floridians vulnerable and result in huge consequences for the economic security of young people.

Marriage Equality

Gov. Scott has repeatedly sidestepped questions related to marriage equality. Whenever he has been asked to comment on Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s recently filed appeal to a federal judge’s ruling last month that overturned Florida’s 2008 ban on marriage equality, Gov. Scott has deftly changed the subject. Former Gov. Crist recently sent a letter to the governor, urging him not to defend the state ban on marriage equality. Despite this call, the attorney general has continued to defend the state’s ban on marriage equality.

Marriage equality is not a controversial topic for the more than 7 in 10 people ages 18 to 29 who support it. Support among young people in Florida is the highest of any age group and reflects the shifting views on the issue. It’s time for Gov. Scott to decide where he stands—with the millions of young people who already support marriage equality, or on the wrong side of history.

Conclusion

Since the last gubernatorial election, Florida has gained more than 600,000 new voters, most of them unaffiliated with a party. Like the nation as a whole, young people in Florida are more likely to be politically independent. Millennials, both nationally and in Florida, constitute the largest and most progressive generation in American history. They need representatives who promote changes in line with their values.

Gov. Scott has acted in opposition to the views of young Florida voters on a litany of critical issues and has been noncommittal on others. Throughout his term as governor, he has claimed that he has increased jobs and improved the economy. Instead, he has advanced a political agenda that undermines the health, safety, and individual rights of all Floridians, particularly the state’s Millennials. With a clear unwillingness to alter his policy stances, Gov. Scott is not a smart choice for young voters in Florida.

Elizabeth Sohns is a Policy Fellow for Generation Progress, the youth division of the Center for American Progress. Zenen Jaimes Pérez is a Policy Advocate for Generation Progress.