Chelsea Clinton rallied supporters and announced plans to reduce student debt at a Tempe campaign stop on Wednesday.
The only daughter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke to hundreds at ASU’s Tempe campus for her Get-Out-The-Vote rally and shared hopes of fully utilizing Arizona as a battleground state.
The event revolved around current national issues regarding student debt, social equality, immigration reform and voter engagement — all of which the speakers said could be solved by voting for Clinton on Nov. 8.
One of Clinton’s resounding messages at the event was that great effort is being made by her mother's campaign to make college more affordable for future generations.
Clinton introduced the New College Compact, a plan which seeks to erase tuition debt for 57,000 students attending school in Arizona, and the plan seeks to relieve the burden of debt for undergraduate and graduate students alike.
“When I’m on university campuses, a question I get asked often and pretty understandably is about higher education and affordability,” she said. “And while my mom’s plan is called the New College Compact, it actually applies to graduate school as well.”
Clinton said the plan would aid students in paying debt by reducing interest rates and offering income-based repayment plans.
“My mom thinks that anyone should be able to pay back their undergraduate or graduate loans as a percentage of their income,” she said. “Trying to service your loan or being too intimidated by the cost of education should not determine what your dreams are.”
Clinton said she is seeing more bipartisan efforts in education reform.
“I’m hopeful in this area ... higher education and affordability and enabling people to better manage the existing debt … we’re gaining bipartisan traction,” she said. “I am hopeful that after my mom wins and hopefully after we elect Ann Kirkpatrick … that we really will be able to make progress in areas where we were starting to have real traction until 2016 overwhelmed everything.”
However, not everyone shares Clinton's views on reducing student debt.
Kevin Calabrese, president of ASU College Republicans, said Clinton's plan to reduce debt is more closely in line with socialistic ideology.
"With our nation being close to $20 trillion in debt, the last thing we need is more government spending," he said. "Instead, we need to enhance public awareness on important statistics, such as graduation rates and the average student loan debt for graduates."
Rather, Calabrese said, Republican Party nominee Donald Trump is more equipped to handle debt on a national level.
"Finally, we need jobs for these graduates and Mr. Trump will bring jobs back by cutting taxes and slashing regulations that burden small businesses," he said.
Mitch Johnston is a history and political science major at ASU. He said it’s good that Clinton came to talk about debt relief because of its prevalence in the lives of many college students.
“College tuition is a big issue for us,” he said. “I think obviously we’re concerned about that, and we know that we don’t want our children also to go through the same thing. So maybe once people hear about that issue, they’ll stop thinking they don’t care so much about politics.”
The event included talks from several speakers, including Lisa Magana, an associate professor of transborder studies at ASU.
Magana said she has seen students today experience more difficulty putting themselves through college than those in the past, due to the rising cost of loans, the added responsibility of living off-campus and the fact that most students work more jobs than before.
“Students may have two to three jobs; it’s a very different experience than the traditional college student we think about today,” she said. “Student loans are getting more expensive. I myself didn’t pay off my student loans until about 10 years ago.”
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona) also spoke at Clinton's rally. Kirkpatrick said she had seen instances of pessimism from high school students regarding college because of the constant rise in tuition.
“I’m hearing from a lot of high school students who are not choosing to pursue a higher education because of student loan debt,” she said. “You know Arizona’s constitution says college and higher education should be as free as possible. And it isn’t, is it?”
It should be noted that Article 11, Section 9 of Arizona's constitution states that cities and towns should be enabled to maintain free high schools, industrial schools and commercial schools, but makes no mention of colleges or universities.
The possibility of Arizona being a swing state in the upcoming election was among the main topics discussed Wednesday.
Kirkpatrick said she’s determined to help lead the Democratic Party to victory in Arizona, which she said is a battleground state.
“There’s a lot at stake in this election,” she said. “I have flipped two congressional districts from red to blue — and this time we’re going to flip the entire state from red to blue.”
Austin Marshall, the ASU Young Democrats president, also spoke at the event. Marshall said he wholeheartedly believes Hillary’s campaign will flip Arizona into a democratic-leaning state.
“I have full faith and confidence that the state’s going blue this year for Hillary,” he said. "You look at the investment that is coming from the national campaign in terms of money that’s being spent, in terms of surrogates that are being sent here … Arizona’s going blue in 2016 and honestly it’s not going to go back easily.”
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