Senate Question 10-31-12 

Candidates are hitting the campaign trails hard in this final week before the election.That includes the three front runners to fill the seat of long time U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe.We asked our Facebook fans what they’d want to ask the candidates.Here’s one of their questions…The cost of going to college continues to increase. What can the government do to make college more affordable for students who want a degree but can’t pay for college?Cynthia Dill:”Government can play a critical role in higher education for young people. We can make sure that PELL Grants and the G-I bill are available, are enough, that they keep up with inflation. We can make sure that there are not unscrupulous lenders, preying on students and negotiating loans that are really uxorious, having incredibly high interest rates. We can provide government back loans with low interest rates and payment programs that will enable students to get into the professions that they’re really passionate about, so there are currently proposals that will allow somebody, for instance, who had student loans, just to pay back a certain percentage of their income, so whether they’re a teacher or whether they’re a Wall Street, you know, banker, they would pay a percentage of their income to repay their loans and that makes it good for the students who want to get into some of these careers that we really need and makes it good for the economy because the loans are getting paid back in a responsible way. So there are a number of steps we can take and it’s an incredible important issue, student debt is, I think, something that we really have to tackle if we’re going to move America forward. “Charlie Summers:”Well, look, I’m a community college graduate. I went to Junior college and I’m a very, very big proponent. I think we need to do, what we need to do is to make sure that those who want to attend a four year baccalaureate degree, have access to loans so they can do that, but I do think that we need to focus, too, on our community college, our technical schools, providing skills for people who want to work with their hands, people who want to be plumbers and electricians and carpenters. Those are very good paying jobs and I think we need to support our community college system, and our technical college system and that should go a very, very long way to helping people.”Angus King:” Well, that’s a, that’s a really tough question because if the government increases grants, for example, and the college tuition goes up by a like amount, nobody’s, nobody’s won in that situation, except maybe the colleges. I think there are a number of things we have to do. One is, to provide programs where students can in effect, work off that debt. My mother went to college. She worked her way through college. She got scholarships, but for every year of her scholarship, she agreed to teach for a year. They needed teachers at that time. This was seventy-five years ago. I think ideas like that, for example, we need STEM teachers: science, technology, engineering and math, so how about loan forgiveness if you go into a field where we’re short, where we need people? That’s one opportunity. Keeping the interest rates as low as possible: this student debt thing is a real problem and it’s, it’s only getting greater. We’ve got kids graduating from college, with what amounts to a mortgage, but no house. And that keeps them from buying a house, and that hurts the economy. So, stretching the payments out, lower interest rates. The other piece is better advice for these kids for when they get into this. I think a lot of young people, eighteen, nineteen years old, are being, I don’t know, I think taken advantage of is a too strong of term, but they don’t know the full implications of what, of what they’re getting into. And I’d like to see some, some upgrades in terms of counseling, so that the kids understand what their options are, and maybe work study would be better than a loan, and those kinds of things. “